Spatial and temporal variations in ecosystem response to monsoon precipitation variability in southwestern North America

Giovanni Forzieri, Luc Feyen, Alessandro Cescatti, Enrique Vivoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Due to its marked vegetation phenology and precipitation gradients, the North American Monsoon Region (NAMR) is a useful domain for studying ecosystem responses to climate variability and change. To this end, we analyze long-term dynamics (1982-2004) in monsoon precipitation (Pr), time-integrated Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (TINDVI) used as proxy of net primary productivity, and rain-use efficiency (RUE). The analysis focuses on six ecoregions, spanning from desert environments to tropical dry forests, to investigate (1) how net primary productivity and rain-use efficiency vary along a precipitation gradient, (2) if interannual variability in net primary productivity is linked to the interannual variability in precipitation, and (3) if there is evidence of a long-term signal imposed on the interannual variability in rain-use efficiency. Variations in TINDVI and RUE with Pr along the NAMR precipitation gradient differ among ecoregions exhibiting intensive or extensive water use strategies. We explain the nonlinear behaviors along the precipitation gradient as resulting from different physiological responses to climatological means and the impact of topographic effects. Statistical analysis indicates that the interannual variability in vegetation response is significantly related to the interannual variability in Pr, but their correlation declines with time. A long-term positive signal in RUE imposed on its interannual variability is identified and results from a constant TINDVI under negative long-term trends of Pr. This important finding suggests the combined long-term effects of ecosystem acclimation to reduced water availability and increasing CO2 concentration across the varied ecosystems of the North American Monsoon Region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1999-2017
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Forestry
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Palaeontology
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


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