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Deforestation may hurt U.S. agriculture, affect monsoon cycle

Unchecked deforestation will have far-reaching impacts on temperature, rainfall, and monsoon cycles in regions well outside the tropics, affecting agriculture and water availability, warns a new report published by Greenpeace International.

The report, titled An Impending Storm: Impacts of deforestation on weather patterns and agriculture, is a synthesis of dozens of recent scientific papers that assess the effects of forest cover loss on weather patterns, local climate, and agricultural productivity.

While noting that there remains a great deal of uncertainty on how deforestation affects weather and climate, the report says “many models show wide scientific consensus that deforestation has the potential to disrupt weather and climate systems on a local, regional and global scale.”

Transpiration above the rainforest canopy in Borneo
Transpiration above the rainforest canopy in Malaysian Borneo

An Impending Storm cites examples from the Amazon, West Africa, Southeast Asia, and the world’s boreal forests.

“Modeling suggests that loss of forests in areas such as Amazonia and Central Africa can severely reduce rainfall in the US Midwest at times when water is crucial for agricultural productivity in these regions,” states the report, which goes on to summarize several potential indirect impacts of deforestation at regional scales, including worsened air pollution, reduced coastal production, increased temperatures, and altered monsoon cycles.

Rainforest in Malaysian Borneo

Greenpeace concludes with a call to embrace the precautionary principle by protecting forests and the services they afford humanity.

“Employing the precautionary principle and conserving existing forest ecosystems under a ‘Zero Deforestation’ footprint is the only way to ensure that forests continue to regulate our weather and climate, minimize the indirect effects of deforestation and conserve biodiversity.”

Predicted impacts of deforestation on weather patterns and crop yields around the world: results from computer modeling studies (Figure from the Greenpeace report).

Summary of potential regional impacts of deforestation from the Greenpeace report
Excerpted from the report

Indirect impacts of Asian deforestation

Indirect impacts of African deforestation

Indirect impacts of Amazon deforestation

CITATION: Greenpeace Research Laboratories. An Impending Storm: Impacts of deforestation on weather patterns and agriculture. Technical Report (Review) 04-2013. October 2013