The overexploitation of water resources in arid environments often results in abandonment of large extensions of agricultural lands, which may (1) modify phenological trends, and (2) alter the sensitivity of specific phenophases to environmental triggers. In Mexico, current governmental policies subsidize restoration efforts, to address ecological degradation caused by abandonments; however, there is a need for new approaches to assess their effectiveness. Addressing this, we explore a method to monitor and assess (1) land surface phenology trends in arid agro-ecosystems, and (2) the effect of climatic factors and restoration treatments on the phenology of abandoned agricultural fields. We used 16-day normalized difference vegetation index composites from the moderate resolution imaging spectroradiometer from 2000 to 2009 to derive seasonal phenometrics. We then derived phenoclimatic variables and land cover thematic maps, to serve as a set of independent factors that influence vegetation phenology. We conducted a multivariate analysis of variance to analyze phenological trends among land cover types, and developed multiple linear regression models to assess influential climatic factors driving phenology per land cover analyzed. Our results suggest that the start and length of the growing season had different responses to environmental factors depending on land cover type. Our analysis also suggests possible establishment of arid adapted species (from surrounding ecosystems) in abandoned fields with longer times since abandonment. Using this approach, we were able increase our understanding on how climatic factors influence phenology on degraded arid agro-ecosystems, and how this systems evolve after disturbance.
Keywords: Agricultural abandonment; Climate; Land cover change; Phenological monitoring.