Forests, trees and vegetation not only depend on rainfall but also play a critical role in generating it where they stand and in other locations, acting as a driving force for climate regulation.
This was the conclusion of a recent discussion forum hosted at the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) in Bonn, Germany, where a diverse panel of speakers came together to discuss the concept of ‘rainfall recycling’.
A review article published earlier last year, titled Trees, forests and water: Cool insights for a hot world, showed that forest, water and energy interactions provide the foundations for carbon storage, cooling terrestrial surfaces and distributing water resources. Forests and trees must therefore be recognized as important regulators within water, energy and carbon cycles.
Following the release of the research paper, as well as a subsequent two-day virtual symposium on the topic, the GLF discussion on ‘Rainfall Recycling as a Landscape Function: Connecting SDGs 6, 13 and 15’ called for a paradigm shift – moving away from the current discourse about forests and climate change that focuses on sequestering and storing carbon.
The session instead put forward the role of forests and trees in the water cycle, showing new ways for forests and land management to influence the climate through atmospheric water cycle controls, and made connections to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – in particular, those on clean water and sanitation, climate action and sustaining life on land.