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Front Plant Sci. 2019 Feb 26;10:224. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2019.00224. eCollection 2019.

Drought-Induced Carbon and Water Use Efficiency Responses in Dryland Vegetation of Northern China.

Gang C1,2,3, Zhang Y2, Guo L1,2, Gao X1,2, Peng S1,2, Chen M4, Wen Z1,2.

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Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, Northwest A&F University, Yangling, China.
Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, Chinese Academy of Sciences and Ministry of Water Resources, Yangling, China.
International Center for Climate and Global Change Research, School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, Auburn University, Auburn, AL, United States.
College of Agronomy, Northwest A&F University, Yangling, China.


Given the context of global warming and the increasing frequency of extreme climate events, concerns have been raised by scientists, government, and the public regarding drought occurrence and its impacts, particularly in arid and semi-arid regions. In this paper, the drought conditions for the forest and grassland areas in the northern region of China were identified based on 12 years of satellite-based Drought Severity Index (DSI) data. The impact of drought on dryland vegetation in terms of carbon use efficiency (CUE) and water use efficiency (WUE) were also investigated by exploring their correlations with DSI. Results indicated that 49.90% of forest and grassland experienced a dry trend over this period. The most severe drought occurred in 2001. In general, most forests in the study regions experienced near normal and wet conditions during the 12 year period. However, grasslands experienced a widespread drought after 2006. The forest CUE values showed a fluctuation increase from 2000 to 2011, whereas the grassland CUE remained steady over this period. In contrast, WUE increased in both forest and grassland areas due to the increasing net primary productivity (NPP) and descending evapotranspiration (ET). The CUE and WUE values of forest areas were more sensitive to droughts when compared to the values for grassland areas. The correlation analysis demonstrated that areas of DSI that showed significant correlations with CUE and WUE were 17.24 and 10.37% of the vegetated areas, respectively. Overall, the carbon and water use of dryland forests was more affected by drought than that of dryland grasslands.


carbon use efficiency; drought severity index; dryland vegetation; northern China; water use efficiency

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