Kim Knauer, Claudia Künzer, and Stefan Dech


Phenological change and variation have become increasingly relevant topics in global change science due to recognition of their importance for ecosystem functioning and biogeophysical processes. Remote sensing time series offer great potential for assessing phenological dynamics at landscape, regional and global scales. Even though a number of studies have investigated phenology, mostly with a focus on climatic variability, we do not yet have a detailed understanding of phenological cycles and respective biogeographical patterns. This is particularly true for biomes like the tropical savannas, which cover approximately one eighth of the global land surface. Savannas are often characterized by high human population density and growth, one example being the West African Sudanian savanna. The phenological characteristics in these regions can be assumed to be particularly influenced by agricultural land use and fires, in addition to climatic variability. This study analyses the spatio-temporal patterns of land surface phe-nology in a Sudanian savanna landscape of southern Burkina Faso based on time series of the Moderate Resolution Spectroradiometer (MODIS), and on multi-temporal Landsat data. The analyses focus on influences of fire, land use, and vegetation structure on phenological patterns, and disclose the effects of long-term fire frequency, as well as the short-term effects of burning on the vegetation dynamics observed in the following growing season. Possibilities of further improvements for remote sensing based analyses of land surface phenology are seen in using earth observation datasets of increased spatial and temporal resolution as well as in linking phenological metrics from remote sensing with actual biological events observed on the ground.