Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

John All (Director), Greg Goodrich, Jun Yan, Jason Polk

Degree Program

Department of Geography and Geology

Degree Type

Master of Science


Global climate change is predicted to affect environmental systems at the midlatitudes, but the scope, severity, and outcomes of these impacts are yet to be fully understood. This study focuses on the implications of short-term climate variability for forests in central Kentucky. Using a Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) calculated from MODerate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument data, the photosynthetic activity of vegetation at Mammoth Cave National Park (MACA) is tracked from 2000 to 2013. Three methods were employed to examine the changes and climate influences in vegetation over the study period: 1) aggregating the NDVI of the Park by year and by summer months (June, July, and August) and examining how these productivity trends could be influenced by precipitation and temperature fluctuations, 2) examining the trend of the NDVI at selected dates throughout the study period to detect phenological shifts around leaf-out and leaf-off, and 3) using a generalized vegetation classification of MACA to clip the imagery based on areas of similar vegetation and then testing correlations between those subsets and teleconnections. The results from the aggregated NDVI show there is an insignificant negative trend. A negative relationship between summer forest productivity at MACA and temperature was found, though more data are needed to rigorously validate this result. Changes in phenology indicate forest productivity is decreasing earlier each year throughout the study period. Finally, the Multivariate ENSO Index and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation index are shown to have significant positive correlations with the summer productivity of MACA during the study period.


Geographic Information Sciences | Geography | Geology | Physical and Environmental Geography