Drylands contribute disproportionately to observed global productivity increases

Shuai Wang, Bojie Fu*, Fangli Wei, Shilong Piao, Fernando T. Maestre, Lixin Wang, Wenzhe Jiao, Yanxu Liu, Yan Li, Changjia Li, Wenwu Zhao

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Drylands cover about 40% of the terrestrial surface and are sensitive to climate change, but their relative contributions to global vegetation greening and productivity increase in recent decades are still poorly known. Here, by integrating satellite data and biosphere modeling, we showed that drylands contributed more to global gross primary productivity (GPP) increase (65% ± 16%) than to Earth greening (33% ± 15%) observed during 1982–2015. The enhanced productivity per unit leaf area, i.e., light-use efficiency (LUE), was the mechanism behind this pattern. We also found that LUE was more sensitive to soil moisture than to atmospheric vapor pressure deficit (VPD) in drylands, while the opposite was observed (i.e., LUE was more sensitive to VPD) in humid areas. Our findings suggest the importance of using different moisture stress metrics in projecting the vegetation productivity changes of dry versus humid regions and highlight the prominent role of drylands as key controllers of the global carbon cycle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)224-232
Number of pages9
JournalScience Bulletin
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 30 2023


  • Disproportional changes
  • Earth greening
  • Light use efficiency
  • Moisture stress
  • The soil–plant–atmosphere continuum
  • Vegetation productivity increase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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