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Study Provides New Understanding of Plants, Droughts, and Climate Change to Improve Models


New research supported by the CPO-led National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and CPO’s Modeling, Analysis, Predictions, and Projections (MAPP) Program developed descriptions of how plants regulate water transport and storage to improve modeling of droughts and their interaction with the ecosystem. Plant drought response varies substantially depending on how plants interact with water, so it’s crucial to map plant hydraulic traits at a large scale to better assess drought impacts in the face of climate change. Using vegetation data from a NASA microwave satellite and a NASA-NOAA-USDA model, the researchers were able to create new categorical descriptions of the dynamic ways in which vegetation interacts with water. These new descriptions can be used to improve parameterizations in models, further increasing the fidelity of models to reality and improving the ability of models to simulate the dynamic interplay between the ecosystem and extreme hydrologic conditions. Building models that can appropriately capture plant-water  interactions is critical in order to accurately simulate the onset and evolution of droughts and their cascading impacts throughout the Earth system. 

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