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Forests to Deserts

Deforestation and Desertification

The climate crisis is not only caused by increasing carbon levels in the atmosphere. Large scale deforestation from industrial clearcutting is altering rainfall patterns that are critical for food production. Interior continental regions get much of their rainfall "recycled” by upwind coastal vegetation, and their removal can shut off this vital moisture transport system. These types of regions include most of the world’s large grain growing areas, especially the Great Plains of North America.

Over the past several decades, most of the primary forests along the Pacific coast (Cascades, Sierra Nevada and Coast ranges) have been clearcut. The precise long term hydrologic impact of converting these old growth forests to tree farms is difficult to determine, but it is obvious that deforestation causes desertification. Continued cutting of coastal forests threatens the global grain supplies.

2015 update:

Sao Paolo, Brazil - the largest city in South America - has about run out of drinking water in its reservoirs. Here is an article from 1991 that warned about deforestation's impacts on water supplies in Brazil:
To Wake Up One Day Different
an introduction to deep ecology with John Seed & Ram Dass
Interview of rainforest activist John Seed, April 17, 1991

RD: So if I try to think of the catastrophes that force change, I'm looking at the interaction between human consciousness now and some time clock process. Like Three Mile Island wasn't enough. Chernobyl wasn't enough. The combination of Three Mile Island-Chernobyl wasn't enough, so we're getting graded catastrophe and there's some probably critical moment where behavior changes. And then the only question is, is it too late, is it irreversible? And it's interesting how the data about irreversibility continually is disputed by other scientists who say, oh these are all nay sayers, and technology will solve the problems. How do you talk to those people?

JS: Well, that's really difficult because technology's so good at covering up the problem that it's very, very difficult even to see the problem in certain places. I mean it's possible to hide oneself from the problem so easily, and especially for the powerful and the people with vested interest, they can distance themselves a great deal. But I feel like there's no evidence that we can actually create the things that we need. For instance, the medicines that we use are derived from rainforest plants. These plants invent the medicine over billions of years in their genetic material. We can then synthesize those same medicines. We don't need those plants any longer once we've unlocked the combination, but we can't ever create any of that ourselves.
To give an example of the scale of the destruction that's going on, the present Minister of Environment in Brazil, Jose Lutzenberger, was one of the great environmentalists in Brazil and was appointed Environment Minister as an answer to Brazil's critics, I suppose. So he quoted some studies a year or two ago of the amount of solar energy that was captured by the jungle in the Amazon necessary to lift the amount of water up into the atmosphere that was taking place there. We have in the Amazon this huge river, but the hydrological cycle in the Amazon is five times as much water as the Amazon River itself. It was calculated that the amount of energy required was the equivalent of two thousand hydrogen bombs a day of solar energy that was captured by the vegetation to lift this water into the air. So this is a huge heat engine that drives the winds of the world, those winds that the ancient mariners knew and the same winds that deliver moisture regularly and predictably to this country and to Europe. They don't just exist, they're not "just there" the way that we think, but they're actually continuously being created and maintained by the large biological systems. This is one of the vital organs of Gaia, the living planet. Lutzenberger says that if we lose as little as one third of the Amazon, it will irreversibly disrupt this process.
First of all the rest of the Amazon will start dying back because the immediate hydrological regime will have been disrupted, and then of course the climate everywhere around the world will be disrupted.
So what this says is that to save a huge national park here and a huge national park there - even if we could do it, which we're not even successful in doing because the national parks are being colonized and burnt before our eyes, but even if we could do that - it's not enough. It's based upon a false metaphor of what life is and what the Earth is.
A better metaphor I think was described by Lovelock, the British scientist who popularized the Gaia hypothesis, when he said that what we're doing to the Amazon is as if the brain were to decide that it was the most important organ in the body and it started to mine the liver for some benefits that it might get from it. Once we realize the connection, we realize deeply that we can't do that any longer because we know that it can't be in the interest of the brain to mine the liver or in the interest of a leaf to destroy the tree on which it's growing. And so we have to say this - national parks are just not enough. People may reply, "Well how can you say this, because we're having enough trouble getting a hundred thousand acres or two hundred thousand acres here and there as a national park, and you say all the cutting has to stop?" But still it has to be said. It may be impossible, but nothing less than that is going to be of any use to us. To try and keep the Earth alive with a few representative areas of natural places is like trying to keep a tree alive by leaving a few pieces of bark on its surface or trying to keep the human body alive with a few pieces of skin. I feel that if this was understood, then everything else would fall into place. So then the question is, "How can this understanding reach people?"
United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification

"Why then," it will be asked, "are the Big Tree groves always found on well-watered spots?" Simply because Big Trees give rise to streams. It is a mistake to suppose that the water is the cause of the groves being there. On the contrary, the groves are the cause of the water being there. The roots of this immense tree fill the ground, forming a sponge which hoards the bounty of the clouds and sends it forth in clear perennial streams instead of allowing it to rush headlong in short-lived destructive floods. Evaporation is also checked, and the air kept still in the shady Sequoia depths, while thirsty robber winds are shut out.
-- John Muir, "Sierra Big Trees," 1901, p. 74, reprinted 1980 by Outbooks, Golden, Colorado

"As land is overused and scorched by the hot sun and no rain, it dries up and vegetation cover diminishes due both to drought and wildfires. Lack of vegetation leads to further loss of humidity and increases erosion rates. So, deserts expand even more."
Researcher wins presidential award for work on rain forests and rainfall
By Denise Brehm
News Office

An MIT scientist whose work provided evidence that deforestation of specific sections of rain forest increases the prospect of widespread regional drought was recently selected by President Clinton to receive a Presidential Early Career Award for Science and Engineering.

19 October 2001

Cloud forests threatened by lowland deforestation

Catherine Zandonella

Costa Rica's aggressive conservation policy may not be enough to protect its rare and celebrated cloud forests. The mountain rainforests are ring-fenced in protected parks. But a new study reveals that they are being damaged by lowland deforestation further down the hill.

Cloud forests such those at Monteverde contain some of the richest assortments of tropical plants and animals in the world. The clouds form when warm lowland winds blow up against steep mountains, causing the air to rise and condense moisture as clouds.

In 1999, scientists noticed that Monteverde's cloudbank was gaining altitude and failing to blanket the mountain in mist, possibly triggering the demise of several species of frogs. Scientists linked the lifting clouds to rising Caribbean Sea temperatures due to global warming.

But Robert Lawton of the University of Alabama in Huntsville has discovered that lack of lowland forest may be the decisive factor. "We didn't realise the deforestation of the lowlands was destroying the cloud forests," he says.

Little protection

Despite the complex of public and private reserves littering Costa Rica, the lowlands have received little protection - only 18 per cent of the original vegetation from the beginning of the last century is still there.

Lawton's team studied daily satellite photos and found far fewer clouds over the deforested lowlands that lie directly east of Monteverde compared to forests in neighbouring Nicaragua, where considerably less lowland trees have been destroyed.

The clouds in Costa Rica were also higher, as estimated from the clouds' shadows, the land elevation, and the known position of the Sun.

Coalminer's canaries

The researchers fed their information into a computer model of the local climate and found that the clouds hung at 1100 metres over lowlands covered with pasture, but at 650 metres over forested lowlands.

The model suggests the air over pastureland is warmer and drier, forcing it to travel higher into the sky before it forms clouds.

Stephen Schneider, a Stanford University biologist who found the link to global warming, says both deforestation and global climate change could be having an impact.

He says cloud forests could act like "coalminer's canaries", giving an early warning of the damage local and global changes can have on an ecosystem.

Journal reference: Science (vol 294, p 584)

Related Articles
Fencing off "biodiversity hot spots" will not protect species from extinction
8 May 2001

Forest loss estimates were over-optimistic
3 October 2001


Meher-Homji, V. M. 1991. Probable impact of deforestation on hydrological processes. Climatic Change 19: 163-73.

Abstract. The various ways in which the forest cover may influence the atmospheric and soil processes controlling the hydrological cycle are examined. Case studies of extensive deforestation affecting the rainfall pattern are reviewed.

full article available at :

The deforestation Meher-Homji describes could be chalked up to deforestation by ax and saw. Call it land use. It can be done for firewood, clearance for crops and livestock, or for export into the world market for logs and chips. Either way, transpiration volume dives, and downwind areas go dry. It's not the sole player in drought-creation, but it has its own effect.

Climate-driven deforestation will be having the same effect.

Scientists Say Deserts Are Expanding As Jet Streams Move Toward the Poles
Associated Press Writer
(AP) 03:34:41 PM (ET), Thursday, May 25, 2006 (WASHINGTON)

Deserts in the American Southwest and around the globe are creeping toward heavily populated areas as the jet streams shift, researchers reported Thursday.

The result: Areas already stressed by drought may get even drier.

Satellite measurements made from 1979 to 2005 show that the atmosphere in the subtropical regions both north and south of the equator is heating up. As the atmosphere warms, it bulges out at the altitudes where the northern and southern jet streams slip past like swift and massive rivers of air. That bulging has pushed both jet streams about 70 miles closer to the Earth's poles.

Since the jet streams mark the edge of the tropics, in essence framing the hot zone that hugs the equator, their outward movement has allowed the tropics to grow wider by about 140 miles. That means the relatively drier subtropics move as well, pushing closer to places like Salt Lake City, where Thomas Reichler, co-author of the new study, teaches meteorology.

"One of the immediate consequences one can think of is those deserts and dry areas are moving poleward," said Reichler, of the University of Utah. Details appear in Thursday's Science Express, the online edition of the journal Science.

The movement has allowed the subtropics to edge toward populated areas, including the American Southwest, southern Australia and the Mediterranean basin. In those places, the lack of precipitation already is a worry.

Additional creep could move Africa's Sahara Desert farther north, worsening drought conditions that are already a serious problem on that continent and bringing drier weather to the countries that ring the Mediterranean Sea.

"The Mediterranean is one region that models consistently show drying in the future. That could be very much related to this pattern that we are seeing in the atmosphere," said Isaac Held, a senior research scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He was not connected with the research.

A shift in where subtropical dry zones lie could make climate change locally noticeable for more people, said Karen Rosenlof, a NOAA research meteorologist also unconnected to the study.

"It is a plausible thing that could be happening, and the people who are going to see its effects earliest are the ones who live closer to the tropics, like southern Australia," said Rosenlof. Her own work suggests the tropics have actually compressed since 2000, after growing wider over the previous 20 years.

Reichler suspects global warming is the root cause of the shift, but said he can't be certain. Other possibilities include variability and destruction of the ozone layer. However, he and his colleagues have noted similar behavior in climate models that suggest global warming plays a role.

Moving the jet streams farther from the equator could disrupt storm patterns, as well as intensify individual storms on the poleward side of the jet streams, said lead author Qiang Fu, a University of Washington atmospheric scientist.

In Europe, for example, that shift could mean less snow falling on the Alps in winter. That would be bad news for skiers, as well as for farmers and others who rely on rivers fed by snowmelt.

"This definitely favors or enhances the frequency of droughts," Fu said of such a shift.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. [fair use for non-commercial understanding]


By Lance Olsen


Last update September 10, 2006

Many plant and animal conservationists think of climate change solely in terms of warming forced on the climate by greenhouse gasses including carbon dioxide. Within the relevant sciences, this is referred to as "greenhouse forcing" of the climate. It is and will be occurring largely via influence on the carbon cycle. First identified as a possible threat to the human population in the 1930s, the dangers being presented by greenhouse forcing have been subject of accelerating consensus. For example, the U.S. Forest Service is well aware that forests may be significantly affected by greenhouse-forcing (e.g., Iverson et al 1999). All species including forest species are part of the carbon cycle.

But a parallel, simultaneous and therefore cumulative form of climate change arises from actions that the human population takes on the surface of the land, known as "land-use forcing." Land-use forcing can exert its influence via direct impact on the hydrologic cycle, and one scientific specialty closely identified with land-use forcing is generally known as hydroclimatology.

All forest species are part of the hydrologic cycle, and loss of forest cover may force change in the hydrologic cycle and thereby the climate. This does not mean that we should choose between land use forcing and greenhouse forcing as competing hypotheses for climatic change. Instead, what we face is land use forcing in cumulative impact with greenhouse-forcing.



Water cycling is another major environmental service of forests. One of the expected impacts that would result from a significant expansion of the extent of deforestation in Amazonia and other parts of Brazil would be a reduction in rainfall, especially during the dry season (Lean et al., 1996). Similar effects have been calculated for the effects of forests on rainfall in the Indian subcontinent (Harding, 1992), and tropical forest protection has been shown to generate drought mitigation and flood mitigation benefits in Indonesia (Pattanayak and Kramer, 2000) and Madagascar (Kramer et al., 1997).

Anthropogenic wildland fires release significant quantities of GHGs and have considerable socioeconomic and ecological impacts. For example, the 1997-1998 wildland fires in southeast Asia resulted from extensive land clearing, exacerbated by unusually dry El Niño, conditions. These fires adversely affected the health of an estimated 20 million people and produced extensive damage to the region's forests and biodiversity, at a total estimated cost of US$4.4 billion (EEPSEA/WWF, 1998, as cited in Levine et al., 1999).

The relatively high water use by forests compared with non-forest lands transfers more water to the atmosphere, with potential effects on local and regional climate if forest areas are very extensive. Although the magnitude of these feedbacks is the subject of contention, extensive forestation may increase humidity, lower temperature, and increase rainfall in temperate and tropical regions (Harding, 1992; Blythe et al., 1994).

Deforestation can lead to decreased local rainfall and increased temperature - most notably in Amazonia, where about 50 percent of rainfall originates from within the Amazon basin and the predicted decrease in rainfall and warming (after loss of forest) could make conditions unsuitable for subsequent regeneration of many rainforest species (Gash and Shuttleworth, 1991). Similarly, adverse impacts of reduced rainfall from deforestation have been documented in Asia (Chan, 1986; Meher-Homji, 1992).


The Meher-Homji paper is accessible online:
Meher-Homji, V. M. 1991. Probable impact of deforestation on hydrological processes. Climatic Change 19: 163-73.

Abstract: The various ways in which the forest cover nay influence the atmospheric and soil processes controlling the hydrological cycle are examined. Case studies of extensive deforestation affecting the rainfall pattern are reviewed.


This paper is only intended as a look at land use that changes vegetation cover including changes of forest cover. The basic process here is simple: Trees pump water into the atmosphere. Pielou, for example, says "Vegetation pumps an enormous amount of water from the soil into the air; few people realize how much, because the whole process is invisible. For example, a single hectare of Douglas-fir forest spews out about 50 tons of water vapor in the course of a sunny, summer day, or about 235 bathtubs full."

This pumping process has been known since the term "transpiration" entered the vocabulary of botany, and is significant to all forest- and climate-related decision-making today.

There are some lingering scientific/technical controversies about some specific matters in this process, including some technical questions about transpiration itself (e.g., Meinzer et al 2001). But the fact remains that forests do propel significant amounts of water to the atmosphere.

It is also axiomatic that moving air then transports this water to downwind destinations. This process -- trees pumping, plus winds carrying -- has inescapable and profound implications for land management agencies. The implications arise because agencies including the Forest Service can alter the flow of water across lands and skies as water falls and rises along a trajectory toward progressively more inland areas.; e.g., Hornberger et al say "Evapotranspiration represents a dominant outflow of water from most catchments and accounts for approximately two-thirds of precipitation over most continental land masses."

The impact of this fundamental process can extend for significant distances. For example, Penman (1970) observed that, once forests pump water to the moving air masses above them, that air may carry the water to nearby sites or sites located "thousands of miles away."

Water's migration across the surface of land is so important to climate and change that it requires some emphasis; e.g., Wood et al (1992) report that "The redistribution of solar energy over the globe is central to studies of climate and climate change. Water plays a fundamental role in this redistribution through the energy associated with evapotranspiration, the transport of atmospheric water vapor, and precipitation."

In fact, Wood et al report that "the importance of the land-surface hydrology to climate has emerged as an important research area since the 1960s" and that "During the past 20 years, a steady progression of research has shown the importance of land hydrology on Earth's climate."

Importantly for the Forest Service and all locations downwind of public lands administered by the Forest Service, Wood and colleagues then go on to note that one computer model of climate change circa 1992 is "widely recognized" for its major deficiencies including that it "does not explicitly consider vegetation…" in its projections of future climate. Perhaps more than any other federal agency of the United States, the Forest Service must not make the error of this same omission.

Much of the best available evidence has been gathered in forests beyond the United States. The importance of vegetation to downwind recycling of precipitation is well-documented from research studies of forests in West Africa (Chen et al 2001), Central America (Lawton et al 2001), and Asia (Meher-Homjii, 1991).

Recognition of its importance has extended to the highest levels of government. In 1997, for example, US President Bill Clinton awarded MIT scientist Elfatih Eltahir a Presidential Early Career Award for Science and Engineering for his work providing evidence that loss of forest cover can heighten risk of regional drought for downwind areas: see

Governments' recognition of the importance of this subject matter has also been expressed in agency documents including Canadian International Development Agency CFAN Discussion Paper 2001, paragraph 8, in which the Senior Forestry Advisor of the Canadian Development Agency states, "At the regional level, deforestation disrupts normal weather patterns, creating hotter and drier weather."

The documentation has been accumulating for many years. Lester Brown (1985), on reviewing evidence from research conducted in the 1970s and early '80s, concluded that, "Knowing what we do about the extent of deforestation over the past generation and about the way the hydrologic cycle works, it would be surprising if climate were not changing."

Brown's succinct summary would be repeated after 16 years of subsequent scientific investigations, and in equally plain language. For example, in a 2001 University of Alabama - Huntsville news release describing hydrologic loss for areas located downwind of forest removal, UAH scientist Ron Welch points out that removal of forest cover at one place in Costa Rica "impacts the environment several hundred kilometers away."

In that same news release, UAH scientist Robert Lawton says, "This isn't a dodgeable effect. It's a straight hand off."

The Rockies are hundreds of kilometers away from the Pacific, and the unsurprising effect described by Brown, and the undodgeable effect described by Lawton may affect the human environment of the interior West as much as it affects any other part of the world.

Indeed, when other U.S. scientists learned the results of research described above by Welch and Lawton, they emphasized this point. Stanford University's Gretchen Daily was quoted in the Los Angeles Times (Oct. 19, 2001) saying that the Costa Rican research has implications "that are very serious for …other parts of the world." In the same article, the Times quoted Duke University's Gary S. Hartshorn as saying that it is "incredibly ominous" and "a very serious concern" that removal of forest cover at one site can force hydrologic loss and consequent climate change on downwind sites at a significant distance away.

The basic lesson here is plain: Actions affecting vegetation/forest cover on the land surface can have simultaneous hydrologic and climatic impact far beyond the actual site where that cover is modified.

This is no small matter for forest management agencies. See for example, Public Service Co. of N.H. v. NRC 582 F.2d 77 (1st Circuit Court) 439 U.S. 1046 (1978) in which the court found that NEPA requires federal agencies to "use all practicable means" to avoid environmental "degradation" and to consider the environmental impact of their actions "to the fullest extent possible." More recently, in Baltimore Gas & Elec. Co. v. NRDC, 462 U.S. 87 (1983), the court found that NEPA "places upon the agency the obligation to consider every significant aspect" of environmental impact and that NEPA aims to make sure agencies would take a "hard look" at environmental consequences of their any action.

Drought can have significant economic as well as ecological impact, and is a classic instance in which economic and ecological interests merge full force. Given the Forest Service's capacity to either trigger drought via its alterations and modifications of vegetative cover, and/or its capacity to exacerbate drought triggered by whatever other process, the two cases cited above seem applicable in the present instance. In fact, University of Wisconsin climatologist Jonathan Foley has said that land use forcing might indeed exacerbate the kinds of changes now coming separately as a product of greenhouse forcing. In a nutshell, Foley thus seems to describe a unique new cumulative effect.

The climatic importance of forest cover has been no secret. In fact, the U.S. government has known that forests are coupled to water and important to climate at least since Gannett described forested land as "a physical factor with effects on climate." (Gannett, 1888) As modern soil scientists have pointed out, the prescientific knowledge on deforestationand drought extends back at least to Plato's observations of dried-up springs following deforestation on the Greek peninsula of Attica (Carter and Dale, 1955).

More recent research has pointed in the same direction.


One dead or dying tree will not contribute significantly to the hydrologic cycle in this way. However, the more trees left available, the more precipitation they will intercept, likely even including the likes of rime ice, a known contributor to the hydrologic cycle in mountain forest ecosystems (Berndt & Fowler, 1969: Gary, 1972).

The larger dead and dying trees can be significant contributors to the hydrological cycle and, by extension, to climate. For example, Amaranthus et al (1989) found that, when down, the larger dead trees can store large volumes of water, which can persist in them even into late season,and acting as a wet buffer against the spread of forest fire

Today's standing dead would, if left, be tomorrow's down dead. Their value is thus long-term in character, so that removing them today would also remove them as assets to the hydrologic cycle tomorrow. For example, note the following question and answer exchange with FS researcher A.E. Harvey, excerpted from a soils conference:

In the videotaped record of the BMNRI soil seminar Dr. Harvey makes the unequivocal statement that underground wood is the main source of late season moisture and nitrogen fixing activity on warm dry sites. In response to one question he stated that the removal of just wood (the boles of trees) leaving limbs and needles did not deplete nutrients.

A questioner from the audience asked for clarification:

I don't understand that answer. You were talking about the presence of large pieces of wood under the ground as being contributors of moisture and various nutrients over the long term. How will you get those large bodies of wood underground if you don't have large boles of trees on the ground?

Dr. Harvey answered: You don't. Obviously if you have large deposits of decomposed wood deep in soils then you had forests on that site for a very long period of time. In most cases where you have significant downslope to the forest you do get some movement of soils downslope and they tend to move down and engulf and bury this wood over time. So that's how you get them deep into the soil profile. In addition to just large roots; obviously large roots are well buried in the soil profile as well. We made a calculation once on some sub alpine fir systems to figure out how many gallons of water per acre there was. As I recall the figure there was some 80 thousand gallons of water per acre stored in wood in late August in that particular site we were looking at. That's quite a lot of water stored in something that when we started out we didn't even expect to find in these forest soils. We expected it to be all either all burned up or decomposed over time. It was something of a revelation to see how persistent this stuff was. Does that answer your question?

Q: So what does the removal of large boles portend for the forests of the future?

A. OK. Obviously we have a situation where if you consider the fact that we might in fairly intensive commercial forestry operations, for example, grow more and more smaller stems to get volumes up. That could, over the long term create, a problem because the kind of wood that's persistent, remember, has to be fairly large. Not only that, probably the most persistent wood is heartwood of the species that I mentioned: Douglas fir, larch, pines. So depending on how you silviculturally approach that system; again if this is an infertile system, and not all are, you could conceivably run yourself into problems by continuously growing more smaller stems to get volumes up. So, yes that could be a problem.

Q: But couldn't it also be a problem if you remove everything that is old and large and dead.

A: Absolutely. We've vociferously recommended against that for a long time now. That's not a good idea.

Principal Plant Pathologist
Project Leader
RMRS-4551 (home page:
USDA, FS, Forestry Sciences Lab
1221 S. Main St.
Moscow, Idaho 83843

Potential for storage of 80,000 gallons per acre, at late season, is a significant matter, and while removal of one large tree per acre would have only insignificant consequence, each dead tree removed would be cumulative in its effect on soil moisture and the hydrologic cycle.

Information on soil moisture capacity to influence the climate is basic; e.g., one simulation of the climate, circa 1992, has been criticized as "highly simplified" for reasons including that, in addition to ignoring the vital role played by vegetation, it also assumes that soil moisture is uniform across the globe (Wood et al, 1992). Today's standing dead trees would one day be part of the project area's soil, shaping its capacity to hold soil moisture. Removal of any tree would, in cumulative fashion, remove some corresponding degree of soil moisture in the future.

Forest Service scientists (e.g., Ohmann, 2002) have pointed out that the agency's rotation schedule ensures that new growth will be harvested when small, meaning that large dead trees will not be available in the future, which indicates potential that removal of existing large dead trees would amount to an irreversible and irretrievable loss of a resource whose value the agency has underestimated.

As if the cumulatively interacting impact of greenhouse and land-use forcing were not unique enough risk, other emergent concerns will also be foreseeably intervening; e.g., carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere will foreseeably exert influence even if carbon dioxide were not a greenhouse gas; i.e., he atmosphere's (still-increasing) CO2 levels will select for survival of some some plant species, but will also select against survival of other plant species, and may thus effect "cascading" changes throughout ecosystems ( Bazzaz and Fajer, 1992). Elevated levels of carbon dioxide also result in less nutrition per unit of plant tissue in the surviving plant species, requiring that consumer species all the way from grasshoppers to domestic sheep must eat more plant tissue, and scientists have stated that these trends raise signficant concerns for "wild ungulates" (Hesman, 2000).

The Forest Service now makes its decisions in a complex new atmosphere, wherein the complexity of the relevant interactions poses unique risk and raises great uncertainty. For example, climate scientist Roger Pielke says the interactions of several sources of change may make it "impossible" to predict what outcomes we might expect from a climate that is being changed in multiple ways at the same time.


Amaranthus, M.P., Parrish, D.S. and D.A. Perry. 1989. Decaying logs as moisture reservoirs after drought and wildfire. Proceedings of watershed '89: a conference on the stewardship of soil, air and water resources. USDA For. Serv., Alaska Region: 191-194.

Bazzaz, Fakhri and Fajer, Eric. "Plant Life in a CO2-Rich World," Scientific American, January 1992.

Berndt, H. W. and Fowler, W.B., "Rime and hoarfrost of upperslope forests of eastern Washington," J. Forest., 67, 92-95, 1969.

Brown, Lester. "Population-Induced Climate Change," State of the World 1985, Worldwatch Institute, pp. 10-14, 1985.

Carter, Vernon Gill and Dale, Tom. Topsoil and Civilization. University of Oklahoma Press. 1955, p.105.

Chen, Tsing-Chang; St.Croix, Kathryn J.; Yoon, Jin-ho, and Takle, Eugene "Suppressing Impacts of the Amazonian Deforestation by Global Circulation Change," Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Vol.82, 10 October 2001.

Cutrim, Elen; Martin, David W., and Rabin, Robert, "Enhancement of Cumulus Clouds over Deforested Lands in Amazonia." Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Vol. 76, No. 10, October 1995, 1801-1805.

Daily, Gretchen, quoted in "Deforestation Far Away Hurts Rain Forests, Study Says," in Los Angles Times, October 19, 2001.

Duncan, Sally "Beyond the Limits of Traditional Science: Bioregional Assessments and Natural Resource Management, Science Findings, USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, May 2000

Gannett, Henry., p. 1, first sentence, "The Forests of the United States," in United States Geological Survey, 19th Annual Report, Part 5, 1888.

Gary, H.L., "Rime contributes to water balance in high elevation aspen forests," J. Forest., 70, 93-97, 1972.

Hartshorn, Gary S., quoted in "Deforestation Far Away Hurts Rain Forests, Study Says," in Los Angeles Times, October 19, 2001.

Hesman, Tina. "Greenhouse Gassed: carbon dioxide spells indigestion for food chains," Science News, March 25, 2000.

Hornberger, George M.; Raffensperger, Jeffrey P.; Wiberg, Patricia L. and Eshleman, Keith N. Elements of Physical Hydrology, The Johns Hopkins University Press

Iverson, Louis R., Prasad, Anantha M., Hale, Betsy J., and Sutherland, Elaine Kennedy, "Atlas of Current and Future Distributions of Common Trees of the Eastern United States," USDA Forest Service Northeastern Research Station General Technical Report NE-265, 1999.

Lawton, R.O., Nair, U.S., Pielke, R.A. Sr., and Welch, R.M. "Climatic Impact of Tropical Lowland Deforestation on Nearby Montane Cloud Forests," Science, Vol. 294, 19 October 2001

Meher-Homji, V.M. "Probable Impact of Deforestation on Hydrologic Processes," Climatic Change, 19, 163-73, 1991.

Meinzer, Frederick C., Clearwater, Michael J. and Goldstein, Guillermo, "Water transport in trees: current perspectives, new insights and some controversies," Environmental and Experimental Botany, 2001, 45, 239- 262.

Ohmann, Janet, quoted in Science Findings, USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, March 2002.

Penman, H.L. "The Water Cycle," Scientific American, September 1970.

Pielke, Roger (editor) U.S. National Report to IUGG, 1991-1994, Rev. Geophysics. Vol. 33 Suppl., American Geophysical Union 1995.

Pielou, E. C. Fresh Water. University of Chicago Press

Stankey, George H., quoted in Science Findings, USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, April 2001

Wood, Eric F.; Lettenmaier, Dennis P. and Zartarian, Valerie G. " A Land-Surface Hydrology Parameterization With Subgrid Variability for General Circulation Models." Journal of Geophysical Research, Vol. 97, No. D3, pp. 2717-2728, February 28, 1992

Zheng, Xinyu, quoted in "Lost forests leave West Africa dry," New Scientist, 18 January 1997


Sample Quote:
"Our study carried somewhat surprising results," said lead author Roni Avissar, "showing that although the major impact of deforestation on precipitation is found in and near the deforested regions, it also has a strong influence on rainfall in the mid and even high latitudes."


USINFO, U.S. Department of State
14 September 2005

Tropical Deforestation Affects Rainfall Across Globe, Study Says Land-cover changes can help slow or speed greenhouse warming

A new study is offering insight into long-term impacts of changes caused by human development, particularly the effects on the global climate of large-scale deforestation in tropical regions.

Researchers from Duke University in North Carolina analyzed years of data using the NASA General Circulation Computer Model and Global Precipitation Climatology Project to produce several climate simulations.

According to a September 13 NASA press release, the research shows that deforestation in different areas of the globe affects rainfall patterns over a large region.

"Our study carried somewhat surprising results," said lead author Roni Avissar, "showing that although the major impact of deforestation on precipitation is found in and near the deforested regions, it also has a strong influence on rainfall in the mid and even high latitudes."

Deforestation in the Amazon region of South America, for example, influences rainfall from Mexico to Texas and in the Gulf of Mexico.

Deforesting lands in Central Africa affects rainfall in the upper and lower U.S Midwest, and deforestation in Southeast Asia alters rainfall in China and the Balkan Peninsula.

Such changes mainly occur in certain seasons, and the combined effects of deforestation in these areas enhances rain in one region and reduces it in another.

The finding contradicts earlier research suggesting that deforestation would cause a reduction in rainfall and increase in temperature in the Amazon basin but have no detectable impact on the global water cycle, which describes the existence and movement of water on, in and above the Earth.

Improved understanding of tropical forested regions is valuable because of their strong influence on the global climate. The Amazon Basin drives weather systems around the world.

The tropics receive two-thirds of the world's rainfall, and when it rains, water changes from liquid to vapor and back again, storing and releasing heat energy in the process.

With so much rainfall, an incredible amount of heat is released into the atmosphere, making the tropics the Earth's primary source of heat redistribution.

Land-cover changes in tropical regions can have potentially significant consequences for water resources, wildfire frequency, agriculture and related activities at various remote locations.

Depending on its nature, land-cover change also can help slow or speed up greenhouse warming.

The researchers say their results are based on numerical simulations performed with a single general circulation model and that reproducing the experiment with other computer models using different atmospheric variables would be beneficial.

Additional information on how tropical deforestation affects rainfall is available on NASA's Web site. For more information and images related to this story, please visit on the Internet: and

The Politics of Extinction
By: Captain Paul Watson

We are at the present time living in an age of mass extinction. Each year, more than 20,000 unique species disappear from this planet forever. This represents more that two species per hour,

Species extinction is the fuel that supports the ever increasing progress of the machinery of civilization. The human species, reproducing with the malevolent design of a cancer cell is mindlessly pursuing growth for the sake or growth alone.

Individual humans are for the most part insulated from the reality of species loss. Alienated from the natural world, wrapped in a cocoon of material pleasures, guided by anthropocentric attitudes, the average human being is unaware and non-caring about the biological holocaust that is transpiring each and every day.

The facts are clear. More plant and animal species will go through extinction within our generation than have been lost thorough natural causes over the past two hundred million years. Our single human generation, that is, all people born between 1930 and 2010 will witness the complete obliteration of one third to one half of all the Earth's life forms, each and every one of them the product of more than two billion years of evolution. This is biological meltdown, and what this really means is the end to vertebrate evolution on planet Earth.

Nature is under siege on a global scale. Biotopes, i.e., environmentally distinct regions, from tropical and temperate rain forests to coral reefs and coastal estuaries, are disintegrating in the wake of human onslaught. The destruction of forests and the proliferation of human activity will remove more than 20 percent of all terrestrial plant species over the next fifty years. Because plants form the foundation for entire biotic communities, their demise will carry with it the extinction of an exponentially greater number of animal species -- perhaps ten times as many faunal species for each type of plant eliminated.

Sixty-five million years ago, a natural cataclysmic event resulted in extinction of the dinosaurs. Even with a plant foundation intact, it took more than 100,000 years for faunal biological diversity to re-establish itself. More importantly, the resurrection of biological diversity assumes an intact zone of tropical forests to provide for new speciation after extinction.

Today, the tropical rain forests are disappearing more rapidly than any other bio-region, ensuring that after the age of humans, the Earth will remain a biological, if not a literal desert for eons to come.

The present course of civilization points to ecocide -- the death of nature. Like a run-a-way train, civilization is speeding along tracks of our own manufacture towards the stone wall of extinction. The human passengers sitting comfortably in their seats, laughing, partying, and choosing to not look out the window. Environmentalists are those perceptive few who have their faces pressed against the glass, watching the hurling bodies of plants and animals go screaming by. Environmental activists are those even fewer people who are trying desperately to break into the fortified engine of greed that propels this destructive specicidal juggernaut. Others are desperately throwing out anchors in an attempt to slow the monster down while all the while, the authorities, blind to their own impending destruction, are clubbing, shooting and jailing those who would save us all.


Civilized humans have for ten thousand years been marching across the face of the Earth leaving deserts in their footprints. Because we have such short memories, we forgot the wonder and splendor of a virgin nature. We revise history and make it fit into our present perceptions.

For instance, are you aware that only two thousand years ago, the coast of North Africa was a mighty forest? The Phoenicians and the Carthaginians built powerful ships from the strong timbers of the region. Rome was a major exporter of timber to Europe. The temple of Jerusalem was built with titanic cedar logs, one image of which adorns the flag of Lebanon today. Jesus Christ did not live in a desert, he was a man of the forest. The Sumerians were renowned for clearing the forests of Mesopotamia for agriculture. But the destruction of the coastal swath of the North African forest stopped the rain from advancing into the interior. Without the rain, the trees died and thus was born the mighty Sahara, sired by man and continued to grow southward at a rate of ten miles per year, advancing down the length of the continent of Africa.

And so will go Brazil. The precipitation off the Atlantic strikes the coastal rain forest and is absorbed and sent skyward again by the trees, falling further into the interior. Twelve times the moisture falls and twelve times it is returned to the sky -- all the way to the Andes mountains. Destroy the coastal swath and desertify Amazonia -- it is as simple as that. Create a swath anywhere between the coast and the mountains and the rains will be stopped. We did it before while relatively primitive. We learned nothing. We forgot.

So too, have we forgotten that walrus once mated and bred along the coast of Nova Scotia, that sixty million bison once roamed the North American plains. One hundred years ago, the white bear once roamed the forests of New England and the Canadian Maritime provinces. Now it is called the polar bear because that is where it now makes its last stand.


Gone forever are the European elephant, lion and tiger. The Labrador duck, giant auk, Carolina parakeet will never again grace this planet of ours. Lost for all time are the Atlantic grey whales, the Biscayan right whales and the Stellar sea cow. our children will never look upon the California condor in the wild or watch the Palos Verde blue butterfly dart from flower to flower. Extinction is a difficult concept to fully appreciate. What has been is no more and never shall be again. It would take another creation and billions of years to recreate the passenger pigeon. It is the loss of billions of years of evolutionary programming. It is the destruction of beauty, the obliteration of truth, the removal of uniqueness, the scarring of the sacred web of life

To be responsible for an extinction is to commit blasphemy against the divine. It is the greatest of all possible crimes, more evil than murder, more appalling than genocide, more monstrous than even the apparent unlimited perversities of the human mind. To be responsible for the complete and utter destruction of a unique and sacred life form is arrogance that seethes with evil, for the very opposite of evil is live. It is no accident that these two words spell out each other in reverse.

And yet, a reporter in California recently told me that "all the redwoods in California are not worth the life on one human being." What incredible arrogance. The rights a species, any species, must take precedence over the life of an individual or another species. This is a basic ecological law. It is not to be tampered with by primates who have molded themselves into divine legends in their own mind.

For each and every one of the thirty million plus species that grace this beautiful planet are essential for the continued well-being of which we are all a part, the planet Earth -- the divine entity which brought us forth from the fertility of her sacred womb.

As a sea-captain I like to compare the structural integrity of the biosphere to that of a ship's hull. Each species is a rivet that keeps the hull intact. If I were to go into my engine room and find my engineers busily popping rivets from the hull, I would be upset and naturally I would ask them what they were doing.

If they told me that they discovered that they could make a dollar each from the rivets, I could do one of three things. I could ignore them. I could ask them to cut me in for a share of the profits, or I could kick their asses out of the engine room and off my ship. If I was a responsible captain, I would do the latter. If I did not, I would soon find the ocean pouring through the holes left by the stolen rivets and very shortly after, my ship, my crew and myself would disappear beneath the waves.

And that is the state of the world today. The political leaders, i.e., the captains at the helms of their nation states, are ignoring the rivet poppers or they are cutting themselves in for the profits. There are very few asses being kicked out of the engine room of spaceship Earth.

With the rivet poppers in command, it will not be long until the biospheric integrity of the Earth collapses under the weight of ecological strain and tides of death come pouring in. And that will be the price of progress -- ecological collapse, the death of nature, and with it the horrendous and mind numbing specter of massive human destruction.

And where does that leave us, dear reader? Do you intend to remain in you seat, oblivious to the impending destruction? Have you got you face pressed up against the window, watching the grim reapings of progress? Or are you engaged in throwing out anchors, sacrificing the materialistic pleasures of civilization and risking your all, that your planet and your children may live? The choice is unique to this generation. Future generations will not have the chance and those that came before us did not have the vision nor the knowledge. It is up to us -- you and I.

Remain a parasite OR become an Earth Warrior. Serve your Mother and prosper OR serve the anthropocentric interests of humanity and besmear yourself with the filth and guilt of ecocide.


The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society was created to help protect the world's oceans by helping enforce international conservation law.