EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

What can we learn from observational data about vegetation resistance to increasing aridity?

Christin Abel1, Miguel Berdugo2,3, Abdulhakim M. Abdi4, Torbern Tagesson5, Stéphanie Horion1, Rasmus Fensholt1, and Fernando T. Maestre6,7
Christin Abel et al.
  • 1Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 2Department of Environmental Systems Science, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
  • 3Institut de Biología Evolutiva (UPF-CSIC), Barcelona, Spain
  • 4Centre for Environmental and Climate Science, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
  • 5Department of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
  • 6Departamento de Ecología, Universidad de Alicante, Alicante, Spain
  • 7Instituto Multidisciplinar para el Estudio del Medio “Ramón Margalef,” Universidad de Alicante, Alicante, Spain

Natural ecosystems are under increasing pressure from environmental changes such as climate change, natural disasters, or anthropogenic disturbances. Prolonged droughts, heat waves and increasing aridity are generally considered major consequences of ongoing global climate change and are expected to produce widespread changes in key ecosystem attributes, functions and dynamics. Drylands are especially vulnerable to potential adverse consequences of climate change. Recent research documented the existence of three major thresholds in aridity associated with distinct changes in multiple ecosystem attributes and a gradual reduction in vegetation productivity when a threshold is crossed. We hypothesise that different environmental conditions such as climate, drought intensity and topography, as well as specific soil and plant related attributes impact the vegetation resistance to disturbances. Here, we define disturbance as a crossing of an aridity threshold and vegetation resistance as the inverse of the magnitude of disturbance, which is measured as a reduction in vegetation productivity when crossing the threshold.

We used a generalised linear model on observational data from the BIOCOM (Biotic community attributes and ecosystem functioning: implications for predicting and mitigating global change impacts) and BIODESERT (Biological feedbacks and ecosystem resilience under global change: a new perspective on dryland desertification) databases complemented with remote sensing-based data to test our hypothesis.

Generally, a field site’s slope, nitrogen content, soil texture and pH, as well as changes in rainfall are significantly related to the magnitude of disturbance. Preliminary results further suggest that the magnitude of disturbance is negatively related to drought intensity in years prior to crossing a threshold. Interactions of some soil properties with drought intensity may also play an important role in explaining the magnitude of disturbance.

How to cite: Abel, C., Berdugo, M., Abdi, A. M., Tagesson, T., Horion, S., Fensholt, R., and Maestre, F. T.: What can we learn from observational data about vegetation resistance to increasing aridity?, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-7533,, 2023.