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  1. Abstract

    Drought is often thought to reduce ecosystem photosynthesis. However, theory suggests there is potential for increased photosynthesis during meteorological drought, especially in energy-limited ecosystems. Here, we examine the response of photosynthesis (gross primary productivity, GPP) to meteorological drought across the water-energy limitation spectrum. We find a consistent increase in eddy covariance GPP during spring drought in energy-limited ecosystems (83% of the energy-limited sites). Half of spring GPP sensitivity to precipitation was predicted solely from the wetness index (R2 = 0.47,p < 0.001), with weaker relationships in summer and fall. Our results suggest GPP increases during spring drought for 55% of vegetated Northern Hemisphere lands ( >30° N). We then compare these results to terrestrial biosphere model outputs and remote sensing products. In contrast to trends detected in eddy covariance data, model mean GPP always declined under spring precipitation deficits after controlling for air temperature and light availability. While remote sensing products captured the observed negative spring GPP sensitivity in energy-limited ecosystems, terrestrial biosphere models proved insufficiently sensitive to spring precipitation deficits.

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  2. Abstract Atmospheric humidity and soil moisture in the Amazon forest are tightly coupled to the region’s water balance, or the difference between two moisture fluxes, evapotranspiration minus precipitation (ET-P). However, large and poorly characterized uncertainties in both fluxes, and in their difference, make it challenging to evaluate spatiotemporal variations of water balance and its dependence on ET or P. Here, we show that satellite observations of the HDO/H 2 O ratio of water vapor are sensitive to spatiotemporal variations of ET-P over the Amazon. When calibrated by basin-scale and mass-balance estimates of ET-P derived from terrestrial water storage and river discharge measurements, the isotopic data demonstrate that rainfall controls wet Amazon water balance variability, but ET becomes important in regulating water balance and its variability in the dry Amazon. Changes in the drivers of ET, such as above ground biomass, could therefore have a larger impact on soil moisture and humidity in the dry (southern and eastern) Amazon relative to the wet Amazon. 
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  3. How can we live well together? The question is critical for cities, where “wicked problems” like failing infrastructure, natural and industrial disaster, and epidemic disease pose threats to diverse forms of life. Because such problems are by definition world-shattering, it is notoriously difficult for city-dwellers to agree on how to think about them, much less overcome them. This essay sketches a collaborative ethnographic approach for co-conceptualizing wicked problems. Proyecto Buen Vivir (The Living Well Project) features a series of multisector experimental workshops conducted over four years in Ciudad Sandino, Nicaragua. This workshop model draws on collaborative research design and active learning strategies from both Nicaraguan and North American pedagogical traditions. Collaborative methods have historically identified and addressed the discrete problems. Given that common understanding can be rather more elusive when grappling with wicked problems, this essay argues for collaborative methods oriented to speculation and play might also be more generative.

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  6. Vegetation processes are fundamentally limited by nutrient and water availability, the uptake of which is mediated by plant roots in terrestrial ecosystems. While tropical forests play a central role in global water, carbon, and nutrient cycling, we know very little about tradeoffs and synergies in root traits that respond to resource scarcity. Tropical trees face a unique set of resource limitations, with rock-derived nutrients and moisture seasonality governing many ecosystem functions, and nutrient versus water availability often separated spatially and temporally. Root traits that characterize biomass, depth distributions, production and phenology, morphology, physiology, chemistry, and symbiotic relationships can be predictive of plants’ capacities to access and acquire nutrients and water, with links to aboveground processes like transpiration, wood productivity, and leaf phenology. In this review, we identify an emerging trend in the literature that tropical fine root biomass and production in surface soils are greatest in infertile or sufficiently moist soils. We also identify interesting paradoxes in tropical forest root responses to changing resources that merit further exploration. For example, specific root length, which typically increases under resource scarcity to expand the volume of soil explored, instead can increase with greater base cation availability, both across natural tropical forest gradients and in fertilization experiments. Also, nutrient additions, rather than reducing mycorrhizal colonization of fine roots as might be expected, increased colonization rates under scenarios of water scarcity in some forests. Efforts to include fine root traits and functions in vegetation models have grown more sophisticated over time, yet there is a disconnect between the emphasis in models characterizing nutrient and water uptake rates and carbon costs versus the emphasis in field experiments on measuring root biomass, production, and morphology in response to changes in resource availability. Closer integration of field and modeling efforts could connect mechanistic investigation of fine-root dynamics to ecosystem-scale understanding of nutrient and water cycling, allowing us to better predict tropical forest-climate feedbacks. 
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    Abstract. Evaporation (E) and transpiration (T) respond differentlyto ongoing changes in climate, atmospheric composition, and land use. It isdifficult to partition ecosystem-scale evapotranspiration (ET) measurementsinto E and T, which makes it difficult to validate satellite data and landsurface models. Here, we review current progress in partitioning E and T andprovide a prospectus for how to improve theory and observations goingforward. Recent advancements in analytical techniques create newopportunities for partitioning E and T at the ecosystem scale, but theirassumptions have yet to be fully tested. For example, many approaches topartition E and T rely on the notion that plant canopy conductance andecosystem water use efficiency exhibit optimal responses to atmosphericvapor pressure deficit (D). We use observations from 240 eddy covariance fluxtowers to demonstrate that optimal ecosystem response to D is a reasonableassumption, in agreement with recent studies, but more analysis is necessaryto determine the conditions for which this assumption holds. Anothercritical assumption for many partitioning approaches is that ET can beapproximated as T during ideal transpiring conditions, which has beenchallenged by observational studies. We demonstrate that T can exceed 95 %of ET from certain ecosystems, but other ecosystems do not appear to reachthis value, which suggests that this assumption is ecosystem-dependent withimplications for partitioning. It is important to further improve approachesfor partitioning E and T, yet few multi-method comparisons have beenundertaken to date. Advances in our understanding of carbon–water couplingat the stomatal, leaf, and canopy level open new perspectives on how toquantify T via its strong coupling with photosynthesis. Photosynthesis can beconstrained at the ecosystem and global scales with emerging data sourcesincluding solar-induced fluorescence, carbonyl sulfide flux measurements,thermography, and more. Such comparisons would improve our mechanisticunderstanding of ecosystem water fluxes and provide the observationsnecessary to validate remote sensing algorithms and land surface models tounderstand the changing global water cycle. 
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