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Understanding spatial patterns of diversity and productivity in alpine plant communities : application of high-resolution imagery in the French Alps

Abstract : The central aim of this thesis is to contribute to current understanding of environmental drivers of plant diversity and productivity as well as of recent changes in vegetation structure in a temperate alpine context, the French Alps. My approach draws on methods from remote sensing and plant ecology by combining plot-based measures of plant diversity and climate data with high-resolution imagery. Chapter I demonstrates the importance of quantifying snow cover duration for predicting patterns of plant taxonomic and functional diversity, and also highlights the ongoing challenge of modeling spatial gross primary productivity dynamics in alpine landscapes. In Chapter II, I explore the utility of satellite imagery for quantifying environmental conditions experienced by alpine plant communities, and further show how metrics of snow cover duration and peak productivity can be used to differentiate habitat for dominant alpine plant communities. I also explore how functional diversity mediates NDVI responses to highly contrasting snow years. Chapter III provides new evidence of recent shifts occurring in high-elevation plant communities in the French Alps in response to climate and land-use change. Analysis of the forest-grassland ecotone in the Vercors Regional Park shows a strong dynamic of forest expansion in response to overall climate warming and local shifts in grazing-related land-use practices, which supports findings from other studies conducted elsewhere in the Alps and Pyrenees. In the second part of Chapter III, for the first time I present evidence of greening dynamics in a protected area of the French Alps, the Ecrins National Park. I propose that a decrease in snow cover duration and pronounced warming occurring in the 1980s likely contributed to increased canopy productivity in high alpine contexts, and are driving long-term greening in the absence of land-use change. Taken collectively, rather than pushing a specific aspect alpine ecology forward, my work helps to fill out our working knowledge of alpine plant communities and serves to solidify a number of field-based observations by carrying out robust spatial analyses.
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Bradley Carlson. Understanding spatial patterns of diversity and productivity in alpine plant communities : application of high-resolution imagery in the French Alps. Vegetal Biology. Université Grenoble Alpes, 2016. English. ⟨NNT : 2016GREAV057⟩. ⟨tel-01686736⟩

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