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Tropical deforestation significantly reduces rainfall: study

March 03, 2023

PARIS: From the Amazon to the evergreen forests of Africa and Southeast Asia, large-scale deforestation threatens reductions in rainfall across the tropics, according to new research.

The threat is most acute in the Congo Basin -- forecast to endure rapid deforestation in the coming years -- which could see rainfall reduced by up to ten percent by the end of the century, researchers found.

The study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, used satellite observations over recent decades to confirm predictions in climate change computer models that rainfall would lessen across the tropics as more forest is cut down.

The findings add to concerns that “we could come to a point where the rainforests cannot sustain themselves,” said the study´s lead author, Callum Smith of the University of Leeds. He called for increased commitments to conservation, with researchers concluding that restoring large areas of destroyed forest could reverse some of the rainfall loss.

While the importance of tropical forests for the global climate is well known -- they absorb and store planet-warming carbon dioxide -- the impacts of tree loss on local weather conditions have been observed only in specific areas.