Title: Diverse responses of vegetation growth to meteorological drought across climate zones and land biomes in northern China from 1981 to 2014
Authors: Hao-jie Xu (徐浩杰)*, Xin-ping Wang, Chuan-yan Zhao, Xue-mei Yang
Journal: Agricultural and Forest Meteorology (SCI农林科学一区，TOP，IF2016 = 3.887)
Abstract: Improving our understanding of present and future impacts of drought on the vegetation in northern China is heightened by expectations that drought would increase its vulnerability and subsequently accelerate land degradation. The response of vegetation activity to drought and the underlying mechanisms are not well known. By using the third-generation Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and the Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI), we investigated the relationship between NDVI and SPEI, across different climate regimes and land cover types, and determined the dominant time-scales at which different biome types respond to drought during the period of 1981–2014. Our results showed that biome response is coupled with drought trends in most regions of northern China. The highest correlation between monthly NDVI and SPEI at different time scales (1–48 months) assessed the impact of drought on vegetation, and the time scales resulting in the highest correlation were an effective indicator of drought resistance, which was related to the interactive roles of mean water balance and divergent drought survival traits and strategies. Diverse responses of vegetation to drought were critically dependent on characteristic drought time-scales and different growing environments. This study highlighted the most susceptible ecosystem types to drought occurrence under current climate, including temperate steppes, temperate desert steppes, warm shrubs and dry forests. Given that drought will be more frequent and severe under future climate scenarios, it may threaten the survival of mesic ecosystems, such as temperate meadows, alpine grasslands, dwarf shrubs, and moist forests not normally considered at drought risk. We propose that future research should be focused on arid and semi-arid ecosystems, where the strongest impact of drought on vegetation is occurring and the need for an early warning drought system is increasingly urgent.