Spatiotemporal study of exiting vegetation in the Atacama Region and its relationship with Flowering Desert


  • Juan Campos Nazer Universidad de Atacama
  • José Espinoza Aburto Universidad de Atacama
  • Jorge Ramos Aguilar Global Change Science



In the Atacama Region, Chile, a phenomenon known as the "flowering desert" (or “desert bloom”) occurs, which is the result of infrequent precipitation events that regulate the amount of existing biota. In this context, this study graphs the spatial and temporal distribution of vegetation in the Region from 2000 to 2017. Vegetation areas have been determined using the MOD13Qproduct derived from the MODIS sensor. This product uses the NDVI factor, which detects vegetation vigor. For the analysis, the ArcPy library written in Python was used. Later graphs of the NDVI factor were generate, in addition to annual vegetation density maps of the vegetal cover. The results showed that 2017 was a year with 8 % more vegetation compared to 2015, being those years among the ones with larger vegetation cover according to Chilean Corporación Nacional Forestal (CONAF). The maximum NDVI factor was concentrated in 2017, making this year the one with the highest amount of concentrated vegetation in the last 18 years. This amount of vegetation is increased between May to July mainly due to the presence of flowering related to the Flowering Desert which triples the surface of vegetation. This higher concentration of vegetation would not have been possible without the abundant rainfall that occurred during May of 2017.


Almeyda, E. & Sáez, F. (1958). Recopilación de datos climáticos de Chile. Ministerio de Agricultura, Dirección General de Producción Agraria y Pesquera. Departamento Técnico Interamericano de Cooperación Agrícola.

Armesto, J.; Vidiella, P. & Gutierrez, J. (1993). Plant communities of the fog-free Chilean coastal desert: plant strategies in a fluctuating environment. Revista Chilena de Historia Natural, n 66, p 271-282.

Castro, C.; Montaña, A.; Pattillo C. & Zúñiga, A. (2014). Detección del área con desierto florido en el territorio del Mar de Dunas de Atacama, mediante percepción remota. Revista de geografía Norte Grande, no 57, p. 103-121.

Chávez, R.; Moreira-Muñoz, A.; Galleguillos, M.; Olea, M., Aguayo, J.; Latín, A.; Aguilera-Betti, I.; Muñoz, A.; Manríquez, H. (2019). GIMMS NDVI time series reveal the extent, duration, and intensity of “blooming desert” events in the hyper-arid Atacama Desert, Northern Chile. International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, vol. 76, p. 193-203.

Di Castri, F. & Hajek, E. R. (1976). Bioclimatología de Chile. Santiago de Chile: Editorial Universidad Católica de Chile.

Dirección de Meteorología de Chile. (2018). Boletín Eventos Extremos. Dirección de servicios Climatológicos. Disponible en internet:

Engel-Cox, J.; Holloman, C.; Coutant, B. & Hoff, R. M. (2004) Qualitative and quantitative evaluation of MODIS satellite sensor data for regional and urban scale air quality. Atmospheric environment, vol. 38, no 16, p. 2495-2509.

Fuenzalida, H. (1971). Climatología de Chile. Departamento de Geofísica y Geodesia. Universidad de Chile, 69 pp.

He, B.; Huang, L.; Liu, J.; Wang, H.; Lű, A.; Jiang, W. & Chen, Z. (2017). The observed cooling effect of desert blooms based on high‐resolution Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer products. Earth and Space Science, vol. 4, no 5, p. 247-256.

Jaksic, F. (2001). Ecological effects of El Niño in terrestrial ecosystems of western South America, Ecography, vol. 24, no 3, p. 241-250.

Juliá, C.; Montecinos, S.; Maldonado, A. (2008) Características climáticas de la Región de Atacama, en Squeo, F. A. (Ed. 1): Libro rojo de la flora nativa y de los sitios prioritarios para su conservación: Región de Atacama, Copiapó, Ediciones Universidad de La Serena, p. 25-42.

Luebert, F. & Pliscoff. (2006). Sinopsis bioclimática y vegetacional de Chile. Santiago de Chile: Editorial Universitaria.

Lyapustin, A.; Wang, Y.; Xiong, X.; Meister, G.; Platnick, S.; Levy, R. & Angal, A. (2014) Scientific impact of MODIS C5 calibration degradation and C6+ improvements, Atmospheric Measurement Techniques, vol. 7, no 12, p. 4353-4365.

Mas, J.F. (2011). Aplicaciones del sensor MODIS para el monitoreo del territorio. México: Editorial Centro de Investigaciones en Geografía Ambiental, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

NASA-MODIS. NASA MODIS Web. Disponible en Internet:

Noy-Meir, I. (1973). Desert ecosystems: environment and producers. Annual review of ecology and systematics, vol. 4, no 1, p. 25-51.

Rayner, N.; Parker, D.; Horton, E.; Folland, C.; Alexander, L.; Rowell, D.; Kent, E.; Kaplan, A. (2003). Global analyses of sea surface temperature, sea ice, and night marine air temperature since the late nineteenth century, Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, vol. 108, no D14.

Vanderplank, S.; Moreira-Munoz, A.; Hobohm, C.; Pils, G.; Noroozi, J.; Clark, V.R.; Barker, N.; Yang, W.; Huang, J. & Ma, K. (2014). Endemism in mainland regions–case studies: Central Chile Ecoregion, Endemism in vascular plants. Springer, Dordrecht, p. 205-308.

Vidiella, P.; Armesto, J.; Gutiérrez, J. (1999). Vegetation changes and sequential flowering after rain in the southern Atacama Desert, Journal of Arid Environments, vol. 43, no 4, p. 449-458.



How to Cite

Campos Nazer, J., Espinoza Aburto, J., & Ramos Aguilar, J. (2022). Spatiotemporal study of exiting vegetation in the Atacama Region and its relationship with Flowering Desert. GeoFocus. International Review of Geographical Information Science and Technology, (28), 83–93.