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Journal Article

Empirical evidence for recent global shifts in vegetation resilience


Smith,  Taylor
External Organizations;


Traxl,  Dominik
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;


Boers,  Niklas
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;

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Smith, T., Traxl, D., Boers, N. (2022): Empirical evidence for recent global shifts in vegetation resilience. - Nature Climate Change, 12, 477-484.

Cite as: https://publications.pik-potsdam.de/pubman/item/item_27903
The character and health of ecosystems worldwide is tightly coupled to changes in Earth’s climate. Theory suggests that ecosystem resilience—the ability of ecosystems to resist and recover from external shocks such as droughts and fires—can be inferred from their natural variability. Here, we quantify vegetation resilience globally with complementary metrics based on two independent long-term satellite records. We first empirically confirm that the recovery rates from large perturbations can be closely approximated from internal vegetation variability across vegetation types and climate zones. On the basis of this empirical relationship, we quantify vegetation resilience continuously and globally from 1992 to 2017. Long-term vegetation resilience trends are spatially heterogeneous, with overall increasing resilience in the tropics and decreasing resilience at higher latitudes. Shorter-term trends, however, reveal a marked shift towards a global decline in vegetation resilience since the early 2000s, particularly in the equatorial rainforest belt.