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Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.


Water use efficiency (WUE; gross primary production [GPP]/evapotranspiration [ET]) estimates the tradeoff between carbon gain and water loss during photosynthesis and is an important link of the carbon and water cycles. Understanding the spatiotemporal patterns and drivers of WUE is helpful for projecting the responses of ecosystems to climate change. Here we examine the spatiotemporal patterns, trends, and drivers of WUE at the global scale from 2000 to 2013 using the gridded GPP and ET data derived from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS). Our results show that the global WUE has an average value of 1.70 g C/kg H2O with large spatial variability during the 14-year period. WUE exhibits large variability with latitude. WUE also varies much with elevation: it first remains relatively constant as the elevation varies from 0 to 1000 m and then decreases dramatically. WUE generally increases as precipitation and specific humidity increase; whereas it decreases after reaching maxima as temperature and solar radiation increases. In most land areas, the temporal trend of WUE is positively correlated with precipitation and specific humidity over the 14-year period; while it has a negative relationship with temperature and solar radiation related to global warming and dimming. On average, WUE shows an increasing trend of 0.0025 g C·kg−1 H2O·yr−1 globally. Our global-scale assessment of WUE has implications for improving our understanding of the linkages between the water and carbon cycles and for better projecting the responses of ecosystems to climate change.


Earth Systems Research Center

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Ecological Society of America (ESA)

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Copyright: © 2015 Xue et al.


This is an article published by Ecological Society of America (ESA) in Ecosphere in 2015, available online: