Global patterns of extreme drought-induced loss in land primary production: Identifying ecological extremes from rain-use efficiency

Ling Du, Nathaniel Mikle, Zhenhua Zou, Yuanyuan Huang, Zheng Shi, Lifen Jiang, Heather R. McCarthy, Junyi Liang, Yiqi Luo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations

Abstract

Quantifying the ecological patterns of loss of ecosystem function in extreme drought is important to understand the carbon exchange between the land and atmosphere. Rain-use efficiency [RUE; gross primary production (GPP)/precipitation] acts as a typical indicator of ecosystem function. In this study, a novel method based on maximum rain-use efficiency (RUEmax) was developed to detect losses of ecosystem function globally. Three global GPP datasets from the MODIS remote sensing data (MOD17), ground upscaling FLUXNET observations (MPI-BGC), and process-based model simulations (BESS), and a global gridded precipitation product (CRU) were used to develop annual global RUE datasets for 2001–2011. Large, well-known extreme drought events were detected, e.g. 2003 drought in Europe, 2002 and 2011 drought in the U.S., and 2010 drought in Russia. Our results show that extreme drought-induced loss of ecosystem function could impact 0.9% ± 0.1% of earth's vegetated land per year and was mainly distributed in semi-arid regions. The reduced carbon uptake caused by functional loss (0.14 ± 0.03 PgC/yr) could explain >70% of the interannual variation in GPP in drought-affected areas (p ≤ 0.001). Our results highlight the impact of ecosystem function loss in semi-arid regions with increasing precipitation variability and dry land expansion expected in the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)611-620
Number of pages10
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume628-629
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018

Keywords

  • Ecosystem function
  • Extreme drought
  • GPP
  • Interannual variation
  • Rain-use efficiency
  • Semi-arid regions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

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