Vegetation is affected by hydrological cycle components that have altered under the influence of climate change. Therefore, it is necessary to investigate the impact of hydrological cycle components on regional vegetation growth, especially in alpine regions. In this study, we employed multiple satellite observations to comprehensively investigate the spatial heterogeneity of hydrological cycle components in the Yarlung Zangbo River (YZR) basin for the period 1982–2014 and to determine the underlying mechanisms driving regional vegetation growth. Results showed that the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) values during May–October were high, and the NDVI values increased from the upper reaches of the YZR to its lower reaches, reflecting the enhancement of vegetation growth. Annual precipitation, precipitation-actual evapotranspiration (AET), and snow water equivalent (SWE) all affect terrestrial water storage in the YZR basin through changes in soil moisture (SM), i.e., SM is the intermediate variable. Seasonal variability of vegetation is controlled mainly by precipitation, temperature, AET, SM anomaly, and SWE. Groundwater storage anomalies (GWA) and terrestrial water storage anomalies (TWSA) were not reliable indicators of vegetation growth in the YZR basin and the midstream and downstream regions. The effects of GWA and TWSA on vegetation occurred in the upstream region.

  • The spatial heterogeneity of hydroclimatological factors in the Yarlung Zangbo River basin were analyzed based on satellite observations.

  • The interactions of hydrological factors were discussed.

  • The major controlling factors of the vegetation driving forces were examined.

Graphical Abstract

Graphical Abstract
Graphical Abstract
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