Clouds rise over peat forest and oil palm plantations along the Belayan River in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. The connections between trees, water and climate were the focus of a recent discussion at the Global Landscapes Forum in Bonn, Germany. CIFOR Photo/Nanang Sujana

Role of forests, trees and precipitation stirs debate

Evapotranspiration key for rainfall recycling

BONN, Germany (Landscape News) — Forests, trees and vegetation not only depend on rainfall but also play a critical role generating it in their local environment and in more distant locations, acting as a driving force for climate regulation.

This was the conclusion made at a recent discussion forum at the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) in Bonn, Germany, where a diverse panel of speakers discussed the concept of “rainfall recycling.”

A recent review article titled Trees, forests and water: Cool insights for a hot world, demonstrated that forest, water and energy interactions provide a foundation 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, the article argued.

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″ urged a paradigm shift – a move away from the current discourse about forests and climate change that focuses on sequestering and storing carbon.

The session instead described 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 making connections to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – in particular, those on clean water and sanitation, climate action and sustaining life on land.


During the forum delegates pointed out that much of the research being discussed had been known about for many years, and that bridging scientific knowledge and application was in fact the current and most pressing need.

The forum aimed to sketch a new agenda on water, land and climate to promote coordinated science-to-policy linkages, from cross-cutting policy integration to implementation on the ground, and to trigger interest for institutional and donor support for an otherwise sidelined topic.

A global scientific assessment looking at the interactions between forests and water, now being conducted by the Global Forests Expert Panel (GFEP) on Forests and Water, is expected to be presented mid-year. Findings are aimed at informing the U.N. High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), which is tasked with reviewing the implementation of the SDGs.

Vincent Gitz, Director of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), in closing the discussions in Bonn stated that “this is not new science per se, but it is science that is being refined.”

“Another question we can ask is, who can do what with this knowledge?” he said, referring to optimizing the contribution of forests and trees to the regulation of the water cycle. “We are waiting on the GFEP report to help us understand how the different institutions can embark on all of this science, and all the ramifications.”

Gitz added after the session that in light of the role of science and research to provide “early warnings” on preliminary findings – either because of new threats or new opportunities – the research could inform both policy and implementation.

It is expected that the findings and discussions will pave the way toward a more integrated approach to land, water and climate for the SDGs, and that moving forward, this body of research will continue to grow.

This story was originally published on Forests News



Forests regulate rain as cyclical cooling landscape function



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