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A systematic review of vegetation phenology in Africa

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>07/2016
<mark>Journal</mark>Ecological Informatics
Number of pages12
Pages (from-to)117-128
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date29/05/16
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The study of vegetation phenology is important because it is a sensitive indicator of climate changes and it regulates carbon, energy and water fluxes between the land and atmosphere. Africa, which has 17% of the global forest cover, contributes significantly to the global carbon budget and has been identified as potentially highly vulnerable to climate change impacts. In spite of this, very little is known about vegetation phenology across Africa and the factors regulating vegetation growth and dynamics. Hence, this review aimed to provide a synthesis of studies of related Africa's vegetation phenology and classify them based on the methods and techniques used in order to identify major research gaps. Significant increases in the number of phenological studies in the last decade were observed, with over 70% of studies adopting a satellite-based remote sensing approach to monitor vegetation phenology. Whereas ground based studies that provides detailed characterisation of vegetation phenological development, occurred rarely in the continent. Similarly, less than 14% of satellite-based remote sensing studies evaluated vegetation phenology at the continental scale using coarse spatial resolution datasets. Even more evident was the lack of research focusing on the impacts of climate change on vegetation phenology. Consequently, given the importance and the uniqueness of both methods of phenological assessment, there is need for more ground-based studies to enable greater understanding of phenology at the species level. Likewise, finer spatial resolution satellite sensor data for regional phenological assessment is required, with a greater focus on the relationship between climate change and vegetation phenological changes. This would contribute greatly to debates over climate change impacts and, most importantly, climate change mitigation strategies.