, Volume 16, Issue 2-3, pp 183-199

Assessing the role of deep rooted vegetation in the climate system with model simulations: mechanism, comparison to observations and implications for Amazonian deforestation

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Deep rooted vegetation (of up to 68 m) has been found in many parts of the tropics. However, models of the general atmospheric circulation (GCMs) typically use rooting depths of less than 2 m in their land surface parametrizations. How does the incorporation of deep roots into such a model affect the simulated climate? We assess this question by using a GCM and find that deeper roots lead to a pronounced seasonal response. During the dry season, evapotranspiration and the associated latent heat flux are considerably increased over large regions leading to a cooling of up to 8 K. The enhanced atmospheric moisture is transported towards the main convection areas in the inner tropical convergence zone where it supplies more energy to convection thus intensifying the tropical circulation patterns. Comparison to different kinds of data reveals that the simulation with deeper roots is much closer to observations. The inclusion of deep roots also leads to a general increased climatic sensitivity to rooting depth change. We investigate this aspect in the context of the climatic effects of large-scale deforestation in Amazonia. Most of the regional and remote changes can be attributed to the removal of deep roots. We conclude that deep rooted vegetation is an important part of the tropical climate system. Without the consideration of deep roots, the present-day surface climate cannot adequately be simulated.

Received: 4 February 1998 / Accepted: 15 June 1999