Response of ecosystem water use efficiency to climate change in the Tianshan Mountains, Central Asia

  • Xingming HaoEmail author
  • Haiyan Ma
  • Ding Hua
  • Jingxiu Qin
  • Ying Zhang


Ecosystem water use efficiency (EWUE) is a popular issue in the comprehensive study of climate change, ecology, and hydrology. Currently, views on the response of EWUE to temperature, precipitation, and drought remain controversial. Based on ecosystem net primary productivity (NPP) and evapotranspiration (ET) datasets, both of which were retrieved from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) using the Carnegie Ames Stanford approach (CASA) and surface energy balance algorithms for land (SEBAL) models, respectively, this study comprehensively examined the relationship between EWUE and temperature, precipitation, and drought in the Tianshan Mountains of Central Asia. The results showed that EWUE had an obvious temporal change trend in the Tianshan Mountains. The EWUEs of all vegetation types presented an increasing trend in spring and a decreasing trend in autumn. These results led to a phase shift in the annual cycle of EWUE over the years. Compared with 2000 to 2003, from 2012 to 2016, the annual EWUE cycle had advanced by 32 days. Precipitation generally had a negative effect on EWUE, while temperature had an obvious positive effect on EWUE. The EWUE responses to drought for the different vegetation types showed a variety of change trends. With the increase in drought stress, EWUE not only showed a simple upward or downward trend but also showed an upward trend followed by a downward trend or a downward trend followed by an upward trend. EWUE is more sensitive to changing environments than NPP or ET and is more suitable for analyzing ecosystem responses to global change.


Climate change Drought Elasticity coefficient Net primary productivity (NPP) 



We thank the editor and anonymous reviewers, whose comments greatly improved the manuscript.

Funding information

This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41571109) and the Strategic Priority Research Program of Chinese Academy of Sciences (No. XDA20100303).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Desert & Oasis Ecology, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology & GeographyChinese Academy of SciencesUrumqiPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Grassland Research InstituteXinjiang Academy of Animal SciencesUrumqiChina

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