A recent study of the Brazilian Amazon has revealed that deforestation has a significantly larger effect on regional temperatures than previously thought. It also suggests that conserving forests would greatly benefit agricultural businesses.
The study has significant political ramifications as farmers in states within the Amazon have historically been the main contributors to deforestation, driven by the belief that clearing more land will result in profit.
The latest study sheds light on the flip side. It reveals that in Mato Grosso, the agricultural hub, where crops are currently being affected by drought and intense heat, the temperature would increase by just over half a degree celsius by 2050 if deforestation kept up at the same pace as in recent years.
On Monday, a study was released in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealing that deforestation in the Amazon can lead to warming up to 60 miles (100km) away. The extent of forest clearance directly correlates with an increase in temperature. This adds to the overall impact of global heating on the climate.
According to Dominick Spracklen from the University of Leeds, an average tree has a cooling impact equivalent to two to three 2.5kW air conditioners running at maximum capacity every hour, every day. This is achieved through evapotranspiration, which is similar to the sweat produced by humans to regulate body temperature. Spracklen also noted that this effect extends further than previously thought.
The speaker expressed surprise at the magnitude of the situation, as they had previously suspected it to be occurring. They also acknowledged the growing evidence of the positive impact forests have on neighboring areas, such as cooler temperatures and increased precipitation. The hope is that quantifying these benefits will convince a wider range of individuals to prioritize protecting forested areas.
Recent peer-reviewed research has shown that the Amazon plays a crucial role in maintaining a stable climate in its region. A study published earlier this year found that clearing the forest can lead to a decrease in rainfall up to 125 miles away. Further research has also highlighted the connection between the Amazon and the South American monsoon, indicating that ongoing deforestation could result in a 30% reduction in regional precipitation and have severe impacts on food production.
Previous research focused on the effects of deforestation on temperature in a specific region, showing a direct link between tree loss and higher temperatures. However, a recent study expanded on this by investigating if there is a broader warming trend. Through the use of satellite data and AI, the study revealed a 0.7C rise in temperature for every 10% decrease in forest cover within a 60-mile radius.
In regions where there has been significant deforestation, the effects are significant. The research shows that the loss of forests in a particular area leads to a more than four-fold increase in warming, which has severe implications for the Amazon rainforest and its inhabitants.
The primary author, Ed Butt, stated that this should not be viewed as a warning, but rather as a helpful tool to encourage the sustainable management of the forest. “If we can decrease deforestation, we could prevent a significant amount of warming in the region. This presents a major opportunity. It highlights the significant advantage of reducing deforestation for local farmers… The key point is that states such as Mato Grosso have the ability to choose different paths. This returns control to regions and states. They have the potential to greatly reduce their exposure to warming.”