An Impending Storm

Impacts of deforestation on weather patterns and agriculture

Publication - September 30, 2013
Forests provide ecosystem services that include the regulation of weather and climate at local, regional and even global levels. While it is well known that deforestation emits carbon dioxide that contributes to global climate change, less well known are the projected impacts on weather patterns. This report reviews published studies on these indirect impacts of deforestation and their potential impact on agriculture.

There is wide scientific consensus that deforestation can cause indirect impacts to local and regional weather systems, such as rainfall patterns and surface temperatures. There is also strong modelling evidence for remote global impacts via teleconnections caused by deforestation in the three main tropical forested areas (Amazon, equatorial West Africa and Southeast Asia). These impacts vary in extent and magnitude, but there is agreement on deforestation being the underlying cause.

Ending deforestation would stop the direct loss of forest habitat but it would also minimise the indirect effects of deforestation and the possibility of changes to weather and climate systems, locally, regionally and globally. There would also be benefits to public health, reductions in flood risks, and decreases on the negative impacts on crop output in certain areas. Our knowledge of the services provided to humans by forest ecosystems (underpinned by biodiversity) is incomplete, and hence the full consequences of their loss cannot be estimated with any certainty. Therefore, 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, minimise the indirect effects of deforestation and conserve biodiversity.

An Impending Storm