From: University of Utah
Published August 10, 2017 10:53 AM

What it takes to recover from drought

Drought-stricken areas anxiously await the arrival of rain. Full recovery of the ecosystem, however, can extend long past the first rain drops on thirsty ground.

According to a study published August 10 in Nature, the length of drought recovery depends on several factors, including the region of the world and the post-drought weather conditions. The authors, including William Anderegg of the University of Utah, warn that more frequent droughts in the future may not allow time for ecosystems to fully recover before the next drought hits.

Find a video abstract of this study here. The study was funded by the National Science Foundation and by NASA.

When things dry up

Droughts can be defined in several ways. The first is meteorological, defined as a period of less than average precipitation. The second is agricultural, in which the lack of rainfall impairs the productivity of plants. The third is hydrological, when water sources such as lakes, reservoirs, and aquifers begin to dry up to below-average conditions.

Anderegg and colleagues’ new study asks the question: What does recovery from all three of these types of drought look like in different parts of the world? “There was a broad presumption that ecosystems and plants recovered almost immediately when the weather got wetter,” Anderegg says. “We didn’t know what the patterns were globally, including which plants seemed to recover faster or slower and which variables influenced that recovery time.”

Continue reading at University of Utah

Photo: Spatial pattern of drought recovery time. White areas are water, barren, or did not experience any relevant drought events.  Photo credit: Courtesy of Christopher Schwalm

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