- Natural vegetation in semi-arid regions is characterized by three ground features, in addition to bare surfaces – biological soil crusts, annuals, and perennials. These three elements have distinguishable phenological cycles that can be detected by spectral ground measurements and by calculating the weighted normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI). The latter is the product of the derived NDVI of each ground feature and its respective areal cover. Each phenological cycle has the same basic elements – oscillation from null (or low) to full photosynthetic status and back to a stage of senescence. However, they vary in phase. The biological soil crusts show the earliest and highest weighted NDVI peak during the rainy season, and their weighted NDVI signal lasts longer than that of the annuals. The annuals are dominant in late winter and early spring while the perennials predominate in late spring and during the summer.