Differentiating drought legacy effects on vegetation growth over the temperate Northern Hemisphere

Xiuchen Wu, Hongyan Liu, Xiaoyan Li, Philippe Ciais, Flurin Babst, Weichao Guo, Cicheng Zhang, Vincenzo Magliulo, Marian Pavelka, Shaomin Liu, Yongmei Huang, Pei Wang, Chunming Shi, Yujun Ma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

242 Scopus citations


In view of future changes in climate, it is important to better understand how different plant functional groups (PFGs) respond to warmer and drier conditions, particularly in temperate regions where an increase in both the frequency and severity of drought is expected. The patterns and mechanisms of immediate and delayed impacts of extreme drought on vegetation growth remain poorly quantified. Using satellite measurements of vegetation greenness, in-situ tree-ring records, eddy-covariance CO2 and water flux measurements, and meta-analyses of source water of plant use among PFGs, we show that drought legacy effects on vegetation growth differ markedly between forests, shrubs and grass across diverse bioclimatic conditions over the temperate Northern Hemisphere. Deep−rooted forests exhibit a drought legacy response with reduced growth during up to 4 years after an extreme drought, whereas shrubs and grass have drought legacy effects of approximately 2 years and 1 year, respectively. Statistical analyses partly attribute the differences in drought legacy effects among PFGs to plant eco-hydrological properties (related to traits), including plant water use and hydraulic responses. These results can be used to improve the representation of drought response of different PFGs in land surface models, and assess their biogeochemical and biophysical feedbacks in response to a warmer and drier climate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)504-516
Number of pages13
JournalGlobal change biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • drought legacy effect
  • drought resilience
  • ecohydrological responses
  • extreme drought
  • plant functional groups
  • rooting system
  • stomatal conductance
  • vegetation growth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • General Environmental Science


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