San Francisco, CA (May 13, 2013) Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that conserving rainforests in the Amazon River Basin will increase the amount of electricity that hydropower projects in the area can produce. The study is the first to quantify the impact of regional rainforest cover on energy production. Its findings reveal that rainforests are more critical than previously thought in generating the rainfall that drives river flow, and ultimately power production, in tropical areas. The research shows that if deforestation continues to increase in the Amazon, energy projections for one of the world's largest dams, the Belo Monte in Brazil, decline by one third.
"Our study shows that the huge strides Brazil has made in slowing Amazon deforestation are actually helping secure the nation's energy supply," says Claudia Stickler, the study's lead author and scientist at the Amazon Environmental Research Institute International Program (IPAM-IP). "But these efforts must continue hand-in-hand with conservation at the regional level."
The potential loss of generation capacity due to regional deforestation could hinder Brazil's efforts to meet its pending gap in electrical power. Specifically, the study shows that if the deforestation in the Amazon Basin goes unchecked, the energy supplied by Brazil's Belo Monte Dam planned to be the third largest hydropower project in the world will fall 30% below current industry estimates, an amount equivalent to the energy consumption of four million Brazilians.
"These results are extremely important for long-term energy planning," explains climatologist Marcos Costa, one of the study's authors from the Federal University of Viosa in Brazil. "We are investing billions of dollars in hydropower plants around the world. The more rainforests left standing, the more water we'll have in the rivers, and the more electricity we'll be able to get from thes
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