Driving forces of recent vegetation changes in the Sahel: lessons learned from regional and local level analyses

Abstract : A wide range of environmental and societal issues such as food security policy implementation requires accurate information on biomass productivity and its underlying drivers at both regional and local scales. While many studies in West Africa are conducted with coarse resolution earth observation data, few have tried to relate vegetation trends to explanatory factors, as is generally done in land use and land cover change (LULCC) studies at finer scales. In this study, we proposed to make a bridge between vegetation trend analysis and LULCC studies to improve the understanding of the various factors that influence the biomass production changes observed in satellite time series (using integrated Normalized Difference Vegetation Index [NDVI] as a proxy). The study was conducted in two steps. In the first step, we analyzed MODIS NDVI linear trends together with TRMM growing season rainfall over the Sahel region from 2000-2015. A classification scheme was proposed that enables better specification of the relative role of the main drivers of biomass production dynamics. We found that 16% of the Sahel is re-greening-but found strong evidence that rainfall is not the only important driver of biomass increase. Moreover, a decrease found in 5% of the Sahel can be chiefly attributed to factors other than rainfall (88%). In the second step, we focused on the "Degré Carré de Niamey" site in Niger. Here, the observed biomass trends were analyzed in relation to land cover changes and a set of potential drivers of LULCC using the Random Forest algorithm. We observed negative trends (29% of the Niger site area) mainly in tiger bush areas located on lateritic plateaus, which are particularly prone to pressures from overgrazing and overlogging. The significant role of accessibility factors in biomass production trends was also highlighted. Our methodological framework may be used to highlight changing areas and their major drivers to identify target areas for more detailed studies. Finer-scale assessments of the long-term vulnerability of populations can then be made to substantiate food security management policies.
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Louise Leroux, Agnès Bégué, Danny Lo Seen, Audrey Jolivot, Francois Kayitakire. Driving forces of recent vegetation changes in the Sahel: lessons learned from regional and local level analyses. Remote Sensing of Environment, Elsevier, 2017, 191, pp.38-54. ⟨10.1016/j.rse.2017.01.014⟩. ⟨cirad-01952858⟩

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