Assessment of ecosystem resilience to hydroclimatic disturbances in India
Published in Global Change Biology
Abstract: Recent studies have shown an increasing trend in hydroclimatic disturbances like droughts, which are anticipated to become more frequent and intense under global warming and climate change. Droughts adversely affect the vegetation growth and crop yield, which enhances the risks to food security for a country like India with over 1.2 billion people to feed. Here, we compared the response of terrestrial net primary productivity (NPP) to hydroclimatic disturbances in India at different scales (i.e., at river basins, land covers, and climate types) to examine the ecosystems’ resilience to such adverse conditions. The ecosystem water use efficiency (WUEe: NPP/Evapotranspiration) is an effective indicator of ecosystem productivity, linking carbon (C) and water cycles. We found a significant difference (p < .05) in WUEe across India at different scales. The ecosystem resilience analysis indicated that most of the river basins were not resilient enough to hydroclimatic disturbances. Drastic reduction in WUEe under dry conditions was observed for some basins, which highlighted the cross‐biome incapability to withstand such conditions. The ecosystem resilience at land cover and climate type scale did not completely relate to the basin‐scale ecosystem resilience, which indicated that ecosystem resilience at basin scale is controlled by some other ecohydrological processes. Our results facilitate the identification of the most sensitive regions in the country for ecosystem management and climate policy making, and highlight the need for taking sufficient adaptation measures to ensure sustainability of ecosystems.