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Remote Sensing

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Water efficiency, Primary productivity (Biology) -- Measurement, Evapotranspiration, Droughts -- United States, Remote sensing


Ecosystem water-use efficiency (WUE) is defined as the ratio of carbon gain (i.e., gross primary productivity; GPP) to water consumption (i.e., evapotranspiration; ET). WUE is markedly influential on carbon and water cycles, both of which are fundamental for ecosystem state, climate and the environment. Drought can affect WUE, subsequently disturbing the composition and functionality of terrestrial ecosystems. In this study, the impacts of drought on WUE and its components (i.e., GPP and ET) are assessed across the Contiguous US (CONUS) at fine spatial and temporal resolutions. Soil moisture simulations from land surface modeling are utilized to detect and characterize agricultural drought episodes and remotely sensed GPP and ET are retrieved from the moderate resolution imaging spectroradiometer (MODIS). GPP, as the biome vitality indicator against drought stress, is employed to investigate drought recovery and the ecosystems’ required time to revert to pre-drought condition. Results show that drought recovery duration indicates a positive correlation with drought severity and duration, meaning that a protracted drought recovery is more likely to happen following severe droughts with prolonged duration. WUE is found to almost always increase in response to severe (or worse) drought episodes. Additionally, ET anomalies are negatively correlated with drought severity and ET is expected to decrease during severe (or worse) drought episodes. Lastly, the changes of WUE are decomposed in relation to its components and the cross-relation among the variables is revealed and a consistent changing pattern is detected.


© 2019 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (



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