Global variations in critical drought thresholds that impact vegetation

Li, Xiangyi; Piao, Shilong; Huntingford, Chris ORCID:; Peñuelas, Josep; Yang, Hui; Xu, Hao; Chen, Anping; Friedlingstein, Pierre; Keenan, Trevor F.; Sitch, Stephen; Wang, Xuhui; Zscheischler, Jakob; Mahecha, Miguel D.. 2023 Global variations in critical drought thresholds that impact vegetation. National Science Review, 10 (5), nwad049. 14, pp.

Before downloading, please read NORA policies.
N535466JA.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution 4.0.

Download (4MB) | Preview


Identifying the thresholds of drought that, if crossed, suppress vegetation functioning is vital for accurate quantification of how land ecosystems respond to climate variability and change. We present a globally applicable framework to identify drought thresholds for vegetation responses to different levels of known soil-moisture deficits using four remotely sensed vegetation proxies spanning 2001–2018. The thresholds identified represent critical inflection points for changing vegetation responses from highly resistant to highly vulnerable in response to drought stress, and as a warning signal for substantial vegetation impacts. Drought thresholds varied geographically, with much lower percentiles of soil-moisture anomalies in vegetated areas covered by more forests, corresponding to a comparably stronger capacity to mitigate soil water deficit stress in forested ecosystems. Generally, those lower thresholds are detected in more humid climates. State-of-the-art land models, however, overestimated thresholds of soil moisture (i.e. overestimating drought impacts), especially in more humid areas with higher forest covers and arid areas with few forest covers. Based on climate model projections, we predict that the risk of vegetation damage will increase by the end of the twenty-first century in some hotspots like East Asia, Europe, Amazon, southern Australia and eastern and southern Africa. Our data-based results will inform projections on future drought impacts on terrestrial ecosystems and provide an effective tool for drought management.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Hydro-climate Risks (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 2095-5138
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: drought threshold, inflection points, vegetation response, soil moisture, drought impacts
NORA Subject Terms: Earth Sciences
Related URLs:
Date made live: 06 Nov 2023 09:46 +0 (UTC)

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item

Document Downloads

Downloads for past 30 days

Downloads per month over past year

More statistics for this item...