A flash drought is characterized by its rapid onset and arouses widespread concerns due to its devastating impacts on the environment and society without sufficient early warnings. The increasing frequency of soil moisture flash droughts in a warming climate highlights the importance of understanding its impact on terrestrial ecosystems. Previous studies investigated the vegetation dynamics during several extreme cases of flash drought, but there is no quantitative assessment on how fast the carbon fluxes respond to flash droughts based on decade-long records with different climates and vegetation conditions. Here we identify soil moisture flash drought events by considering decline rate of soil moisture and the drought persistency, and we detect the response of ecosystem carbon and water fluxes to a soil moisture flash drought during its onset and recovery stages based on observations at 29 FLUXNET stations from croplands to forests. Corresponding to the sharp decline in soil moisture and higher vapor pressure deficit (VPD), gross primary productivity (GPP) drops below its normal conditions in the first 16 d and decreases to its minimum within 24 d for more than 50 % of the 151 identified flash drought events, and savannas show highest sensitivity to flash drought. Water use efficiency increases for forests but decreases for cropland and savanna during the recovery stage of flash droughts. These results demonstrate the rapid responses of vegetation productivity and resistance of forest ecosystems to flash drought.