Effects of global greening phenomenon on water sustainability

Yujiao Liu, Yuanfang Chai*, Yao Yue, Yuyun Huang, Yunping Yang, Boyuan Zhu, Dan Lou, Yitian Li, Dawei Shi, Waheed Ullah

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The global vegetation cover is increasing and is expected continue increasing till 2100, owing to CO2 fertilisation and afforestation. This greening phenomenon may create conflicting demands for water between ecosystems, atmosphere, and humans, and has aroused a series of controversies. For exploring the effects of greening phenomenon on terrestrial water availability, we estimated the balance between water supply (precipitation and snowmelt runoff) and water consumption (evaporation, human water use, transpiration, and interception losses) in the global vegetation land based on the outputs of 30 models from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6. Water consumption showed an increasing trend in most regions of global vegetation land for the period 1982–2016 as well as 2040–2100, mainly driven by the increased transpiration and interception losses for vegetation growth (contributing 85.4–90.5%). Although the greening phenomenon widely exacerbates water shortages, 94.3–98.8% of the global vegetation land was still found to be sustainable during 1982–2100, due to the water supply exceeding the total water consumption. More attention should be paid to the unsustainable regions where the total water consumption exceeded the total water supply. Such areas were continuously found to increase from 2.1–5.3% (1982–2016) to 5.4–5.7% (2040–2100) of the global vegetation land. We predict that Oceania, Northern India, the southern coastal regions of North America will be transformed from sustainable regions in 1982–2016 to unsustainable regions in 2040–2100.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105732
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
Early online date20 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Key R&D Program of China [grant number: 2016YFA0600901], and the Youth Project of National Natural Science Foundation China [grant number 41601275]. We are thankful to Professor Han Dolman, for his helpful advice and comments.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021


  • CMIP6
  • Evapotranspiration
  • Global vegetation cover
  • Human water use
  • Precipitation
  • Soil water content


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