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Many parts of the world experience frequent and severe droughts. Summer drought can significantly reduce primary productivity and carbon sequestration capacity. The impacts of spring droughts, however, have received much less attention. A severe and sustained spring drought occurred in southwestern China in 2010. Here we examine the influence of this spring drought on the primary productivity of terrestrial ecosystems using data on climate, vegetation greenness and productivity. We first assess the spatial extent, duration and severity of the drought using precipitation data and the Palmer drought severity index. We then examine the impacts of the drought on terrestrial ecosystems using satellite data for the period 2000–2010. Our results show that the spring drought substantially reduced the enhanced vegetation index (EVI) and gross primary productivity (GPP) during spring 2010 (March–May). Both EVI and GPP also substantially declined in the summer and did not fully recover from the drought stress until August. The drought reduced regional annual GPP and net primary productivity (NPP) in 2010 by 65 and 46 Tg C yr−1, respectively. Both annual GPP and NPP in 2010 were the lowest over the period 2000–2010. The negative effects of the drought on annual primary productivity were partly offset by the remarkably high productivity in August and September caused by the exceptionally wet conditions in late summer and early fall and the farming practices adopted to mitigate drought effects. Our results show that, like summer droughts, spring droughts can also have significant impacts on vegetation productivity and terrestrial carbon cycling.
Environmental Research Letters
Institute of Physics (IOP)
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Zhang, L., Xiao, J.F., Li, J., Wang, K., Lei, L.P., Guo, H.D. (2012). The 2010 spring drought reduced primary productivity in southwestern China. Environmental Research Letters, 7, 045706, https://dx.doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/7/4/045706. (ERL 2012 monthly highlights).
© 2012 IOP Publishing Ltd