Insensitivity of Tree-Ring Growth to Temperature and Precipitation Sharpens the Puzzle of Enhanced Pre-Eruption NDVI on Mt. Etna (Italy)
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0169297
On Mt. Etna (Italy), an enhanced Normalized Difference in Vegetation Index (NDVI) signature was detected in the summers of 2001 and 2002 along a distinct line where, in November 2002, a flank eruption subsequently occurred. These observations suggest that pre-eruptive volcanic activity may have enhanced photosynthesis along the future eruptive fissure. If a direct relation between NDVI and future volcanic eruptions could be established, it would provide a straightforward and low-cost method for early detection of upcoming eruptions. However, it is unclear if, or to what extent, the observed enhancement of NDVI can be attributed to volcanic activity prior to the subsequent eruption. We consequently aimed at determining whether an increase in ambient temperature or additional water availability owing to the rise of magma and degassing of water vapour prior to the eruption could have increased photosynthesis of Mt. Etna's trees. Using dendro-climatic analyses we quantified the sensitivity of tree ring widths to temperature and precipitation at high elevation stands on Mt. Etna. Our findings suggest that tree growth at high elevation on Mt. Etna is weakly influenced by climate, and that neither an increase in water availability nor an increase in temperature induced by pre-eruptive activity is a plausible mechanism for enhanced photosynthesis before the 2002/2003 flank eruption. Our findings thus imply that other, yet unknown, factors must be sought as causes of the pre-eruption enhancement of NDVI on Mt. Etna.