Loss of tropical forests reduces rain news
07 September 2012

Deforestation can have a significant effect on tropical rainfall, new research confirms. The findings have potentially devastating impacts for people living in and near the Amazon and Congo forests.

A team from the University of Leeds and the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology found that for the majority of the Earth's tropical land surface, air passing over extensive forests produces at least twice as much rain as air passing over little vegetation. In some cases these forests increased rainfall thousands of kilometres away.

By combining observational data with predictions of future deforestation, the researchers estimate that destruction of tropical forests would reduce rain across the Amazon basin  by up to a fifth (21 per cent) in the dry season by 2050. The study was published on Wednesday in Nature.

Lead author Dr Dominick Spracklen from the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds says, ''We were surprised to find that this effect occurs strongly across more than half of the tropics. We found that the Amazon and Congo forests maintain rainfall over the periphery of the forest basins - regions where large numbers of people live and rely on rainfall for their livelihoods.

''Our study implies that deforestation of the Amazon and Congo forests could have catastrophic consequences for the people living thousands of kilometres away in surrounding countries."

Scientists have debated whether vegetation increases rainfall for hundreds of years. It is well established that plants put moisture back in the air through their leaves by a process known as evapotranspiration, but the quantity and geographical reach of rainfall generated by large forests has until now been unclear. While there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that forests significantly increase rainfall, until now there has been a lack of observational evidence.





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Loss of tropical forests reduces rain