Last week we had an eye toward the drought conditions impacting many people and places around the globe as World Water Week draws closer. The Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) highlighted some past research on how forests . This research has implications for agriculture in that it illustrates how trees contribute to the hydrological cycle, and the importance of spatial arrangement of forests with regards to other land uses.
Some of the highlights on the organization’s (23 July 2012) blog:
“As the world grapples with rising temperatures, scientists are trying to find ways to utilise forests to influence rainfall patterns in areas experiencing water shortages or severe drought. ‘While forests have received a lot of attention for their role in storing carbon, thus helping mitigate climate change, they could also help us to adapt to a changing climate and combat drought by influencing rainfall patterns,’ said David Ellison from the Institute for World Economics at a Rio+20 side event organised by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).”
“Research by CIFOR has shown that tropical forests contribute to regulating river flows both during dry seasons and high rainfall events, thereby minimising risks related to water scarcity and floods. The relationship between forests and water is complex because, at the local level, catchment studies show that trees actually remove water from the system. Growing trees take water from the soil and release it into the atmosphere. Tree leaves also act as interceptors, catching falling rain, which then evaporates causing rain precipitation elsewhere — a process known as evapo-transpiration.”
Forests influence the accumulation of moisture and the generation of precipitation. For agricultural land uses, which don’t evapo-transpire nearly as much but often still rely heavily on rain, having trees in close proximity may have consequences for productivity and resilience to droughts. According to Ellison on the CIFOR blog, ”by planting forests in strategic locations, we may be able to increase rainfall in key areas.”
Ellison expands upon this idea, drawing upon an example of agriculture in his native Hungary. CIFOR research has also shown that forests play a role in how societies adapt to climate change. Read the original post on the CIFOR blog.