This Monday, March 21, the world celebrated the International Day of Forests. To remind everyone of the importance of preserving these ecosystems. Now researchers point out that it’s not just about carbon storage. Deforestation threatens to upset a whole balance.
CO2 is not the only cause
Forests are perhaps our best allies in the face of global warming . Because they absorb a significant part of the carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) present in our atmosphere . But affirmation may soon have to come together in the past tense. Because with deforestation , forests – especially those in tropical regions – are beginning to release more CO 2 than they store.
And that’s not the only problem that deforestation poses to the climate . Far from it, we learn today from researchers from the Alliance for the development of sustainable and resilient agricultural and food systems . They studied how deforestation in the tropics influences a range of biophysical factors. Factors such as albedo , wind patterns , local heat distribution, and even cloud composition or water cycles.
1.6 billion people in the world depend directly on forests
Factors which themselves have effects on the well-being of human societies, on poverty, on agriculture and on the capacity of the countries concerned to feed their populations.
All with the aim of providing political decision-makers with solid data on the benefits, particularly economic, of preventing deforestation. Because let us remember that some 1.6 billion people in the world depend directly on forests , whether for their food, for shelter, for their energy or to find remedies or income there.
The researchers were particularly interested in the local redistribution of heat. Because a little like an umbrella allows the person holding it to stay dry, treetops know how to disperse heat. Distribute it to the heights. Without a forest, on the other hand, nothing prevents the sun’s rays from directly hitting the ground.
Water cycle and albedo
The researchers also analyzed the consequences of deforestation on the water cycle . Another factor they consider particularly important. Once the trees are cut down, the pump that transfers water from the surface to the air disappears. The precipitation regime changes.
It is also changing because forests are an important source of biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOCs). These are involved in the formation of clouds . Less BOCs due to deforestation and you will have fewer water droplets in the clouds.
Clouds which will thus also become less brilliant and will in fact reflect less solar energy towards space. Until then, researchers thought that the different biophysical effects compensated each other. But this new work shows on the contrary to what extent deforestation reduces the overall cooling effect of clouds.
They confirm the urgent need to implement more sustainable forest management. Both in the tropics and elsewhere in the world. As Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General, already recalled, this Monday, March 21, 2022, on the occasion of the International Day of Forests. “It is time to see concrete and credible action on the ground.