A new study has presented strong evidence that “Brazil‘s ability to generate electricity depends on forest conservation.”
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences demonstrates that deforestation in the Amazon region could significantly reduce the amount of electricity produced from hydropower.
Scientists say the rainforest is critical in generating the streams and rivers that ultimately turn turbines. The BBC reports that if trees continue to be felled, the energy produced by one of the world’s biggest dams could be cut by a third.
They researchers looked closely at Brazil’s Belo Monte dam, said to be the world’s third largest hydropower project. If deforestation continues the scientists say, the project will deliver 30 per cent less power than currently estimated.
In Brazil around 45 new hydro plants are in the planning stage.
Prior to the study there was a belief that tree-cutting assisted water flow to dams but researchers took a broader look at the climate projections for the Amazon basin and not just at the rivers on which the dams were built.
“Rainforests generate their own rainfall,” Dr Claudia Stickler, from the Amazon Environmental Research Institute International Programme (IPAM-IP), told BBC News.
“They pull water out of the soil on a daily basis, they stay green and dark. The main reason is they are always pumping moisture into the atmosphere which ultimately ends up being rainfall and that’s what keeps these streams going too,” she said.
The scientists found that thanks to current levels of deforestation in the region, rainfall is 6-7 per cent lower than it would be with full forest cover. Predictions for 2050 suggest a 40% loss of forest, meaning significantly less rain and 35-40 less electric power.
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