Combining expertise in hydrology, ecology, land use science, climatology, and economics, the researchers modeled energy production under different levels of deforestation in the Amazon River Basin. The scenarios with more forests also produced the most power. With current deforestation levels in the region, the results show that rainfall is 6-7% lower than it would be with full forest cover. And with the 40% loss in rainforests that some predict will occur by 2050, rainfall would be 11-15% lower, resulting in 35-40% less power.
Hydropower Expansion in the World's Rainforests
"We now have very strong evidence that Brazil's ability to generate electricity depends on forest conservation," says co-author Daniel Nepstad, Executive Director of IPAM-IP. "These results aren't just important in Brazil rainforest cover could affect energy production in wet tropical areas throughout the Amazon, and in Africa and Southeast Asia as well."
Areas with rainforests tend to have large amounts of rainfall, making them prime locations for hydropower projects that take advantage of high river flows to create electricity. The World Bank estimates that untapped hydropower in these areas is nearly four times that of installed capacity in Europe and North America and much of this potential lies in the heart of rainforests.
"Brazil, Peru, Colombia, The Congo, Vietnam and Malaysia are all turning to the 'green electricity' produced by hydropower to meet the demands of their growing economies," says Nepstad.
While not without controversy, hydropower usually produces fewer greenhouse gases than many other energy sources. Because of its proven technology and storage capacity, it is also currently deemed more reliable and feasible than large-scale wind and solar projects. Over 45 new plants are planned in Brazil alone, and the Belo Monte dam is expected to supply 40% of Brazil's growth in electricity production by 2019. <
|Contact: Ashley Simons|