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  1. Riparian ecosystems fundamentally depend on groundwater, especially in dryland regions, yet their water requirements and sources are rarely considered in water resource management decisions. Until recently, technological limitations and data gaps have hindered assessment of groundwater influences on riparian ecosystem health at the spatial and temporal scales relevant to policy and management. Here, we analyze Sentinel-2–derived normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI;n= 5,335,472 observations), field-based groundwater elevation (n= 32,051 observations), and streamflow alteration data for riparian woodland communities (n= 22,153 polygons) over a 5-y period (2015 to 2020) across California. We find that riparian woodlands exhibit a stress response to deeper groundwater, as evidenced by concurrent declines in greenness represented by NDVI. Furthermore, we find greater seasonal coupling of canopy greenness to groundwater for vegetation along streams with natural flow regimes in comparison with anthropogenically altered streams, particularly in the most water-limited regions. These patterns suggest that many riparian woodlands in California are subsidized by water management practices. Riparian woodland communities rely on naturally variable groundwater and streamflow components to sustain key ecological processes, such as recruitment and succession. Altered flow regimes, which stabilize streamflow throughout the year and artificially enhance water supplies to riparian vegetation in the dry season, disrupt the seasonal cycles of abiotic drivers to which these Mediterranean forests are adapted. Consequently, our analysis suggests that many riparian ecosystems have become reliant on anthropogenically altered flow regimes, making them more vulnerable and less resilient to rapid hydrologic change, potentially leading to future riparian forest loss across increasingly stressed dryland regions.

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  2. null (Ed.)
    Abstract. Despite clear signals of regional impacts of the recent severe drought inCalifornia, e.g., within Californian Central Valley groundwater storage and Sierra Nevada forests, our understanding of how this drought affected soil moisture and vegetation responses in lowland grasslands is limited. In order to better understand the resulting vulnerability of these landscapes to fire and ecosystem degradation, we aimed to generalize drought-induced changes in subsurface soil moisture and to explore its effects within grassland ecosystems of Southern California. We used a high-resolution in situ dataset of climate and soil moisture from two grassland sites (coastal and inland), alongside greenness (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) data from Landsat imagery, to explore drought dynamics in environments with similar precipitation but contrasting evaporative demand over the period 2008–2019. We show that negative impacts of prolonged precipitation deficits on vegetation at the coastal site were buffered by fog and moderate temperatures. During the drought, the Santa Barbara region experienced an early onset of the dry season in mid-March instead of April, resulting in premature senescence of grasses by mid-April. We developed a parsimonious soil moisture balance model that captures dynamic vegetation–evapotranspiration feedbacks and analyzed the links between climate, soil moisture, and vegetation greenness over several years of simulated drought conditions, exploring the impacts of plausible climate change scenarios that reflect changes to precipitation amounts, their seasonal distribution, and evaporative demand. The redistribution of precipitation over a shortened rainy season highlighted a strong coupling of evapotranspiration to incoming precipitation at the coastal site, while the lower water-holding capacity of soils at the inland site resulted in additional drainage occurring under this scenario. The loss of spring rains due to a shortening of the rainy season also revealed a greater impact on the inland site, suggesting less resilience to low moisture at a time when plant development is about to start. The results also suggest that the coastal site would suffer disproportionally from extended dry periods, effectively driving these areas into more extreme drought than previously seen. These sensitivities suggest potential future increases in the risk of wildfires under climate change, as well as increased grassland ecosystem vulnerability. 
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  3. Abstract. Dryland regions are characterised by water scarcity and are facingmajor challenges under climate change. One difficulty is anticipating howrainfall will be partitioned into evaporative losses, groundwater, soilmoisture, and runoff (the water balance) in the future, which has importantimplications for water resources and dryland ecosystems. However, in orderto effectively estimate the water balance, hydrological models in drylandsneed to capture the key processes at the appropriate spatio-temporal scales.These include spatially restricted and temporally brief rainfall, highevaporation rates, transmission losses, and focused groundwater recharge.Lack of available input and evaluation data and the high computational costsof explicit representation of ephemeral surface–groundwater interactionsrestrict the usefulness of most hydrological models in these environments.Therefore, here we have developed a parsimonious distributed hydrologicalmodel for DRYland Partitioning (DRYP). The DRYP model incorporates the keyprocesses of water partitioning in dryland regions with limited datarequirements, and we tested it in the data-rich Walnut Gulch ExperimentalWatershed against measurements of streamflow, soil moisture, andevapotranspiration. Overall, DRYP showed skill in quantifying the maincomponents of the dryland water balance including monthly observations ofstreamflow (Nash–Sutcliffe efficiency, NSE, ∼ 0.7),evapotranspiration (NSE > 0.6), and soil moisture (NSE ∼ 0.7). The model showed that evapotranspiration consumes > 90 % of the total precipitation input to the catchment andthat < 1 % leaves the catchment as streamflow. Greater than 90 % of the overland flow generated in the catchment is lost throughephemeral channels as transmission losses. However, only ∼ 35 % of the total transmission losses percolate to the groundwater aquiferas focused groundwater recharge, whereas the rest is lost to the atmosphereas riparian evapotranspiration. Overall, DRYP is a modular, versatile, andparsimonious Python-based model which can be used to anticipate and plan forclimatic and anthropogenic changes to water fluxes and storage in drylandregions. 
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  4. Abstract. Assessments of water balance changes, watershed response, and landscapeevolution to climate change require representation of spatially andtemporally varying rainfall fields over a drainage basin, as well as theflexibility to simply modify key driving climate variables (evaporativedemand, overall wetness, storminess). An empirical–stochastic approach to theproblem of rainstorm simulation enables statistical realism and the creationof multiple ensembles that allow for statistical characterization and/or timeseries of the driving rainfall over a fine grid for any climate scenario.Here, we provide details on the STOchastic Rainfall Model (STORM), which usesthis approach to simulate drainage basin rainfall. STORM simulates individualstorms based on Monte Carlo selection from probability density functions(PDFs) of storm area, storm duration, storm intensity at the core, and stormcenter location. The model accounts for seasonality, orography, and theprobability of storm intensity for a given storm duration. STORM alsogenerates time series of potential evapotranspiration (PET), which arerequired for most physically based applications. We explain how the modelworks and demonstrate its ability to simulate observed historical rainfallcharacteristics for a small watershed in southeast Arizona. We explain the datarequirements for STORM and its flexibility for simulating rainfall forvarious classes of climate change. Finally, we discuss several potentialapplications of STORM.

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