Extreme precipitation patterns and reductions of terrestrial ecosystem production across biomes

Authors

  • Yongguang Zhang,

    Corresponding author
    1. Southwest Watershed Research Center, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Tucson, Arizona, USA
    • Now at Institute of Space Sciences, Free University of Berlin, Berlin, Germany
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  • M. Susan Moran,

    1. Southwest Watershed Research Center, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Tucson, Arizona, USA
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  • Mark A. Nearing,

    1. Southwest Watershed Research Center, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Tucson, Arizona, USA
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  • Guillermo E. Ponce Campos,

    1. Southwest Watershed Research Center, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Tucson, Arizona, USA
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  • Alfredo R. Huete,

    1. Plant Functional Biology and Climate Change Cluster, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
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  • Anthony R. Buda,

    1. Pasture and Watershed Management Research Unit, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA
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  • David D. Bosch,

    1. Southeast Watershed Research Laboratory, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Tifton, Georgia, USA
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  • Stacey A. Gunter,

    1. Southern Plains Range Research Station, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Woodward, Oklahoma, USA
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  • Stanley G. Kitchen,

    1. Rocky Mountain Research Station Shrub Sciences Laboratory, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Provo, Utah, USA
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  • W. Henry McNab,

    1. Southern Research Station, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Asheville, North Carolina, USA
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  • Jack A. Morgan,

    1. Crops Research Laboratory, Rangeland Resources Research Unit, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA
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  • Mitchel P. McClaran,

    1. School of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA
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  • Diane S. Montoya,

    1. Pacific Southwest Research Station, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture Arcata, California, USA
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  • Debra P.C. Peters,

    1. Jornada Experimental Range, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Las Cruces, New Mexico, USA
    2. Jornada Basin Long Term Ecological Research Program, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico, USA
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  • Patrick J. Starks

    1. Grazinglands Research Laboratory, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, El Reno, Oklahoma, USA
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Corresponding Author: Y. Zhang, Institute of Space Sciences, Free University of Berlin, D-12165 Berlin, Germany. (yongguangzh@gmail.com)

Abstract

[1] Precipitation regimes are predicted to shift to more extreme patterns that are characterized by more heavy rainfall events and longer dry intervals, yet their ecological impacts on vegetation production remain uncertain across biomes in natural climatic conditions. This in situ study investigated the effects of these climatic conditions on aboveground net primary production (ANPP) by combining a greenness index from satellite measurements and climatic records during 2000–2009 from 11 long-term experimental sites in multiple biomes and climates. Results showed that extreme precipitation patterns decreased the sensitivity of ANPP to total annual precipitation (PT) at the regional and decadal scales, leading to decreased rain use efficiency (RUE; by 20% on average) across biomes. Relative decreases in ANPP were greatest for arid grassland (16%) and Mediterranean forest (20%) and less for mesic grassland and temperate forest (3%). The cooccurrence of heavy rainfall events and longer dry intervals caused greater water stress conditions that resulted in reduced vegetation production. A new generalized model was developed using a function of both PT and an index of precipitation extremes and improved predictions of the sensitivity of ANPP to changes in precipitation patterns. Our results suggest that extreme precipitation patterns have substantially negative effects on vegetation production across biomes and are as important as PT. With predictions of more extreme weather events, forecasts of ecosystem production should consider these nonlinear responses to altered extreme precipitation patterns associated with climate change.

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