River Deforestation Shoots Hydropower In The Foot

Supporters of clean energy often get pegged as “treehuggers”, out of touch hippies that have an irrational affinity for the natural world. Trees, in addition to sucking up carbon dioxide and keeping the soil from washing away, have long been used as fuel, paper, and construction material. Such is the cost of development, shrugs Big Industry.

Now, new research suggests that deforesting the planet’s surface is detrimental for a pretty important, decidedly un-hippie industry: hydropower.

Everything on this planet is interconnected–with the extinction of one species guaranteed to affect all others, though the impact might not be instantly obvious. Nothing makes this plainer than a new study published by The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers found that deforestation around rivers and streams, a tactic thought to increase flow and therefore production at downstream dams, actually does the opposite.

“…large areas of tropical forest actually create rain clouds as moisture from their leaves evaporates,” reports the New York Times. “So the elimination of swaths of these forests decreases rainfall. Cut down enough trees, the scientists argue, and the indirect impact of lost rainfall outweighs the direct impact of removing trees.”

As Chris Tackett points out, the study “is significant because it changes the economic calculus of investing in new hydro-power projects, such as the Brazil’s controversial Belo Monte dam, while also providing new financial incentives for conserving the rain forest.”

Such findings reinforce what wise environmentalists have always said: it’s in the interest of all industry to support the conservation and preservation of natural resources. Without them, there can be no commerce, no customers, no progress. It is to think long term, to envision impacts no only in our own lifetimes, but seven generations later, that is our challenge to those who seek to profit from that which the Earth so freely gives.

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog

  • steinerrw

    but the corporate states of america don’t care. it will be just one of many reasons to charge more for electricity while reaping millions of profits for shareholders…
    and ll this time YOU still think tree-huggers were fighting a lost cause…there the only ones fighting for YOU…