Soil moisture supply and atmospheric demand for water independently limit—and profoundly affect—vegetation productivity and water use during periods of hydrologic stress. Disentangling the impact of these two drivers on ecosystem carbon and water cycling is difficult because they are often correlated, and experimental tools for manipulating atmospheric demand in the field are lacking. Consequently, the role of atmospheric demand is often not adequately factored into experiments or represented in models.

Recent work suggests that episodes of drought and heat can bring forests across climate zones to a threshold for massive tree mortality. As complex systems approach a threshold for collapse they tend to exhibit a loss of resilience, as reflected in declining recovery rates from perturbations. Trees may be no exception, as at the verge of drought-induced death, trees are found to be weakened in multiple ways, affecting their ability to recover from stress.

Climate change threatens ecosystems worldwide, yet their potential future resilience remains largely unquantified. In recent years many studies have shown that biodiversity, and in particular functional diversity, can enhance ecosystem resilience by providing a higher response diversity. So far these insights have been mostly neglected in large-scale projections of ecosystem responses to climate change. Here we show that plant trait diversity, as a key component of functional diversity, can have a strikingly positive effect on the Amazon forests’ biomass under future climate change.

Earth's surface gained 115,000 km2 of water and 173,000 km2 of land over the past 30 years, including 20,135 km2 of water and 33,700 km2 of land in coastal areas. Here, we analyse the gains and losses through the Deltares Aqua Monitor — an open tool that detects land and water changes around the globe.

The Paris Agreement culminates a six-year transition towards an international climate policy architecture based on parties submitting national pledges every five years. An important policy task will be to assess and compare these contributions. We use four integrated assessment models to produce metrics of Paris Agreement pledges, and show differentiated effort across countries: wealthier countries pledge to undertake greater emission reductions with higher costs.

Revegetation of degraded ecosystems provides opportunities for carbon sequestration and bioenergy production. However, vegetation expansion in water-limited areas creates potentially conflicting demands for water between the ecosystem and humans. Current understanding of these competing demands is still limited. Here, we study the semi-arid Loess Plateau in China, where the ‘Grain to Green’ large-scale revegetation programme has been in operation since 1999.

The impact of ocean acidification on marine ecosystems will depend on species capacity to adapt. Recent studies show that the behaviour of reef fishes is impaired at projected CO 2 levels; however, individual variation exists that might promote adaptation. Here, we show a clear signature of parental sensitivity to high CO 2 in the brain molecular phenotype of juvenile spiny damselfish, Acanthochromis polyacanthus, primarily driven by circadian rhythm genes.

Planetary warming may be exacerbated if it accelerates loss of soil carbon to the atmosphere. This carbon-cycle–climate feedback is included in climate projections. Yet, despite ancillary data supporting a positive feedback, there is limited evidence for soil carbon loss under warming. The low confidence engendered in feedback projections is reduced further by the common representation in models of an outdated knowledge of soil carbon turnover.

Between the winters of 2013/14 and 2014/15 during the strong North American drought, the northeast Pacific experienced the largest marine heatwave ever recorded. Here we combine observations with an ensemble of climate model simulations to show that teleconnections between the North Pacific and the weak 2014/2015 El Niño linked the atmospheric forcing patterns of this event.

The long-lasting Sahel drought in the 1970s and 1980s caused enormous human and socio-economic losses, driving extensive research on its causes. Although changes in global and regional sea surface temperatures (SSTs) are thought to be dominant drivers of the severe Sahel drying trend, the mechanisms for the recent recovery trend are not fully clear yet, but are often assumed to be akin to the previous SST–Sahel drought linkage.