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Gianna Gruen | Ideas

Deforestation means less hydropower

Satellite image of the Rondonia region of Brazil showing the massive deforestation underway in the south-central Amazon Basin. (Photo: CC BY 2.0: Banco de Imágenes Geológicas)

The Amazon deforestation rate rocketed to 88 percent during the last year: From August 2012 to April 2013, 606 squaremiles of forest were cut down compared with 322 square miles within the previous year, claimed as a record low.
That’s the conclusion of researchers from the National Institute of Space Research, who frequently monitor forest coverage with help of satellite images. Until recently, they could announce a slowing of deforestation. But, now it seems that the fate of one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots has changed.

Trees take more water from the ground than crops do – and release more water vapour into the atmosphere. There, it turns to rain and finally feeds hydropower plants (Photo: CC BY SA 2.0: International Center for Tropical Agriculture)

The report comes on the heels of another study: scientists recently drew a connection between deforestation and energy supply. They looked at the Xingu river region in Brazil and found that cutting trees also cuts rainfall, resulting in reduced hydropower generation. That could lead to the country’s biggest dam project, Belo Monte,  delivering a third less energy.

The link between deforestation and energy supply is often ignored, according to the study. “Feasibility studies of hydropower plants typically ignore the effect of future deforestation or assume that deforestation will have a positive effect on river discharge,” it says.

Rainfall does not depend on regional forest cover in the Amazon region alone.  Major tropical forested regions in Central Africa and Southeast Asia also play a major role. “This dependence could affect hydropower expansion plans of a large number of developing nations in these regions “, the study concludes.


May 25, 2013



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Jan Michael Ihl | Climate Champions

New Directions for the Brazilian Amazon

Photo: Aerial view of the rain forest in Amazonia

Aerial view of the rain forest in Amazonia (photo: Gabriel Cardoso Carrero/Idesam)

The Amazon rainforest is spread out over nine national states of the South American continent. As trees bind carbon dioxide (CO2), the Amazon forest plays a crucial role in climate protection measures. Home to 60 percent of the world’s rainforest area, Brazil contains the largest part of this precious ecosystem.

GLOBAL IDEAS asked Brazilian forest activist Pedro Soares to write a guest article for our blog. Pedro stresses that we can only protect the Amazon by providing an adequate income to those living in the forest.

By Pedro Soares

The Brazilian Amazon area covers about 50 percent of Brazil’s territory. That is a total an area of 4,196,943 square kilometers.

The biggest stock of tropical forest in the world has always been seen as a barrier to regional economic development. In fact, deforestation occurs mainly due to an economic rationale: the forest does not provide sufficient income for landowners and forest dwellers, when compared to the income they could obtain for more profitable activities such as logging, agriculture or cattle ranching. But the lack of an economic value for the stand forest is the main caveat towards the promotion of forest conservation policies and programs.


August 10, 2012



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sumisom | Ideas

Secret River

The Amazon is the second longest river in the world, snaking through large parts of South America. But just last week, scientists announced they’ve found another river that’s just as long but much wider – and it’s actually underneath the Amazon.

Researchers from Brazil’s National Observatory say the river, called Rio Hamza, is about 4 kilometers below the Amazon, underground. It ranges between 200 and 400 kilometers in width, while the Amazon is only between 1 and 100 kilometers wide. Rio Hamza starts in the Acre region under the Andes and flows through several of the Amazon’s basins before it empties out into the Atlantic Ocean.

Great find!


September 5, 2011



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