Zhang, M; Yuan, X; Otkin, JA (2020). Remote sensing of the impact of flash drought events on terrestrial carbon dynamics over China. CARBON BALANCE AND MANAGEMENT, 15(1), 20.

Background Flash drought poses a great threat to terrestrial ecosystems and influences carbon dynamics due to its unusually rapid onset and increasing frequency in a warming climate. Understanding the response of regional terrestrial carbon dynamics to flash drought requires long-term observations of carbon fluxes and soil moisture at a large scale. Here, MODIS satellite observations of ecosystem productivity and ERA5 reanalysis modeling of soil moisture are used to detect the response of ecosystems to flash drought over China. Results The results show that GPP, NPP, and LAI respond to 79-86% of the flash drought events over China, with highest and lowest response frequency for NPP and LAI, respectively. The discrepancies in the response of GPP, NPP, and LAI to flash drought result from vegetation physiological and structural changes. The negative anomalies of GPP, NPP, and LAI occur within 19 days after the start of flash drought, with the fastest response occurring over North China, and slower responses in southern and northeastern China. Water use efficiency (WUE) is increased in most regions of China except for western regions during flash drought, illustrating the resilience of ecosystems to rapid changes in soil moisture conditions. Conclusions This study shows the rapid response of ecosystems to flash drought based on remote-sensing observations, especially for northern China with semiarid climates. Besides, NPP is more sensitive than GPP and LAI to flash drought under the influence of vegetation respiration and physiological regulations. Although the mean WUE increases during flash drought over most of China, western China shows less resilience to flash drought with little changes in WUE during the recovery stage. This study highlights the impacts of flash drought on ecosystems and the necessity to monitor rapid drought intensification.