Patterns of post-drought recovery are strongly influenced by drought duration, frequency, post-drought wetness, and bioclimatic setting

Tong Jiao, Christopher A. Williams, Martin G. De Kauwe, Christopher R. Schwalm, Belinda E. Medlyn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Understanding vegetation recovery after drought is critical for projecting vegetation dynamics in future climates. From 1997 to 2009, Australia experienced a long-lasting drought known as the Millennium Drought (MD), which led to widespread reductions in vegetation productivity. However, vegetation recovery post-drought and its determinants remain unclear. This study leverages remote sensing products from different sources—fraction of absorbed photosynthetically active radiation (FPAR), based on optical data, and canopy density, derived from microwave data—and random forest algorithms to assess drought recovery over Australian natural vegetation during a 20-year period centered on the MD. Post-drought recovery was prevalent across the continent, with 6 out of 10 drought events seeing full recovery within about 6 months. Canopy density was slower to recover than leaf area seen in FPAR. The probability of full recovery was most strongly controlled by drought return interval, post-drought hydrological condition, and drought length. Full recovery was seldom observed when drought events occurred at intervals of 3 months or less, and moderately dry (standardized water balance anomaly [SWBA] within [−1, −0.76]) post-drought conditions resulted in less complete recovery than wet (SWBA > 0.3) post-drought conditions. Press droughts, which are long term but not extreme, delayed recovery more than pulse droughts (short term but extreme) and led to a higher frequency of persistent decline. Following press droughts, the frequency of persistent decline differed little among biome types but peaked in semi-arid regions across aridity levels. Forests and savanna required the longest recovery times for press drought, while grasslands were the slowest to recover for pulse drought. This study provides quantitative thresholds that could be used to improve the modeling of ecosystem dynamics post-drought.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4630-4643
Number of pages14
JournalGlobal change biology
Volume27
Issue number19
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Australian natural vegetation
  • Millennium Drought
  • post-drought recovery
  • pulse droughts and press droughts
  • random forest classification
  • vegetation optical depth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • Environmental Science(all)

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