In the context of climate change, ecosystem in Yangtze River Source Region (YRSR) is under threat from severe droughts. This study introduced a new natural vegetation drought index, standardized supply-demand water index (SSDI), and identified natural vegetation drought events and parameters (e.g., duration, severity, peak, and coverage area) based on run theory. Then the drought-prone regions were investigated via 2-dimensional joint copula. The results indicate that (1) compared with traditional meteorological drought index, the SSDI is reliable and can reflect the comprehensive characteristics of the ecological drought information more easily and effectively; (2) the YRSR had witnessed the most severe drought episodes in the periods of late-1970s, mid-1980s, and mid-1990s, but the SSDI showed a wetting trend since the mid-2000s. Additionally, droughts in the Southern YRSR were relatively more severe with longer drought duration; (3) in most areas of Togton River Basin and Dam River Basin, the severe ecological drought events occurred more frequently; (4) drought duration and severity in the YRSR were more susceptible to temperature when the temperature rise was above 1.0 °C. The average drought duration and severity increased by 20.7% and 32.6% with a temperature rise of 1 °C. Investigating and evaluating drought characteristics, causes, and drought index effectiveness provide essential information for balanced water resource allocation, utilization, and drought prevention. Understanding these spatial-temporal characteristics of drought and return period was useful for drought risk assessment and sustainable development of water resources.
Keywords: Yangtze River Source Region; ecological drought; probability and return period; spatial-temporal characteristics.