Maps of Konza showing the slopes of the relationships between NDVI and precipitation from DOY 105–214, Also shown are the univariate distributions of these slopes. Colors of slopes on maps correspond to colors in histograms.
Last July, I added an entry on the role of the timing of heat waves and drought for ANPP at Konza. This was recently published in PNAS. In review, the work takes a look at how the timing of interannual variation in temperature and precipitation affect grass production.
As much as the specific results and the proviso that the timing of climate variability can matter as much its magnitude, the technique should become important in examining other long-term records. Any long-term record that is repeated at roughly the same time every year can be used. We've applied it to ANPP, streamflow, bison weight gain, carbon flux, and flowering so far.
In this particular case we didn't test whether different areas showed different timings of sensitivity, but with longer remote sensing records spread over a larger spatial area, it certainly could be tried. We could ask how climate sensitivity varies with latitude or aspect or between major vegetation types.
I think the critical climate period approach has its limitations, but will generate a number of insights in the near future. As we apply the technique to different aspects of ecosystem functioning we'll get a better understanding of the multiple connections between climate and organisms.