NDVI as a predictor of canopy arthropod biomass in the Alaskan arctic tundra


  • Corresponding Editor: W. J. D. van Leeuwen.


The physical and biological responses to rapid arctic warming are proving acute, and as such, there is a need to monitor, understand, and predict ecological responses over large spatial and temporal scales. The use of the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) acquired from airborne and satellite sensors addresses this need, as it is widely used as a tool for detecting and quantifying spatial and temporal dynamics of tundra vegetation cover, productivity, and phenology. Such extensive use of the NDVI to quantify vegetation characteristics suggests that it may be similarly applied to characterizing primary and secondary consumer communities. Here, we develop empirical models to predict canopy arthropod biomass with canopy-level measurements of the NDVI both across and within distinct tundra vegetation communities over four growing seasons in the Arctic Foothills region of the Brooks Range, Alaska, USA. When canopy arthropod biomass is predicted with the NDVI across all four growing seasons, our overall model that includes all four vegetation communities explains 63% of the variance in canopy arthropod biomass, whereas our models specific to each of the four vegetation communities explain 74% (moist tussock tundra), 82% (erect shrub tundra), 84% (riparian shrub tundra), and 87% (dwarf shrub tundra) of the observed variation in canopy arthropod biomass. Our field-based study suggests that measurements of the NDVI made from air- and spaceborne sensors may be able to quantify spatial and temporal variation in canopy arthropod biomass at landscape to regional scales.