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Sensitivity of gross primary productivity to climatic drivers during the summer drought of 2018 in Europe

In summer 2018, Europe experienced a record drought, but it remains unknown how the drought affected ecosystem carbon dynamics. Using observations from 34 eddy covariance sites in different biomes across Europe, we studied the sensitivity of gross primary productivity (GPP) to environmental drivers during the summer drought of 2018 versus the reference summer of 2016. We found a greater drought-induced decline of summer GPP in grasslands (−38%) than in forests (−10%), which coincided with reduced evapotranspiration and soil water content (SWC). As compared to the ‘normal year’ of 2016, GPP in different ecosystems exhibited more negative sensitivity to summer air temperature (Ta) but stronger positive sensitivity to SWC during summer drought in 2018, that is, a stronger reduction of GPP with soil moisture deficit. We found larger negative effects of Ta and vapour pressure deficit (VPD) but a lower positive effect of photosynthetic photon flux density on GPP in 2018 compared to 2016, which contributed to reduced summer GPP in 2018. Our results demonstrate that high temperature-induced increases in VPD and decreases in SWC aggravated drought impacts on GPP. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Impacts of the 2018 severe drought and heatwave in Europe: from site to continental scale’.



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