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Open AccessArticle

Response of Ecosystem Water Use Efficiency to Drought over China during 1982–2015: Spatiotemporal Variability and Resilience

Jiangsu Provincial Key Laboratory of Geographic Information Science and Technology, International Institute for Earth System Sciences, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210023, China
Key Laboratory of Water Cycle and Related Land Surface Processes, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
Jiangsu Center for Collaborative Innovation in Geographical Information Resource Development and Application, Nanjing 210023, China
Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumchi 830011, China
Center for Water Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 1001018, China
Institute of Agricultural Remote Sensing and Geoinformation, Department of Environment and Resource, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310058, China
Natural Resources Service Center, Dalian 116023, China
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Forests 2019, 10(7), 598;
Received: 16 May 2019 / Revised: 13 July 2019 / Accepted: 17 July 2019 / Published: 18 July 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Water Cycling and Drought Responses of Forest Ecosystems)
PDF [4363 KB, uploaded 18 July 2019]


Ecosystem water use efficiency (WUE describes carbon-water flux coupling in terrestrial ecosystems. Understanding response and resilience of WUE to drought are essential for sustainable water resource and ecosystem management under increasing drought risks over China due to climate warming. Here we analyzed the response of ecosystem WUE to drought (spatiotemporal variability and resilience) over China during 1982–2015 based on an evapotranspiration (ET) dataset based on the model tree ensemble (MTE) algorithm using flux-tower ET measurements and satellite-retrieved GPP data. The results showed that the multiyear average WUE was 1.55 g C kg−1 H2O over China. WUE increased in 77.1% of Chinese territory during the past 34 years. During drought periods, the ecosystem WUE increased mainly in the northeast of Inner Mongolia, Northeast China and some regions in southern China with abundant forests but decreased in northwestern and central China. An apparent lagging effect of drought on ecosystem WUE was observed in the east of Inner Mongolia and Northeast China, the west and east regions of North China and the central part of Tibetan Plateau. Some ecosystems (e.g., deciduous needle-leaf forests, deciduous broadleaf forests, evergreen broadleaf forests and evergreen needle-leaf forests) in Central China, Northeast and Southwest China exhibited relatively greater resilience to drought than others by improving their WUE. Our findings would provide useful information for Chinese government to adopt a reasonable approach for maintaining the structure and functions of ecosystems under drought disturbance in future. View Full-Text
Keywords: water use efficiency; drought; ecosystem resilience; spatiotemporal variability; vegetation types water use efficiency; drought; ecosystem resilience; spatiotemporal variability; vegetation types

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Guo, L.; Sun, F.; Liu, W.; Zhang, Y.; Wang, H.; Cui, H.; Wang, H.; Zhang, J.; Du, B. Response of Ecosystem Water Use Efficiency to Drought over China during 1982–2015: Spatiotemporal Variability and Resilience. Forests 2019, 10, 598.

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