Feedbacks between deforestation, climate, and hydrology in the Southwestern Amazon: implications for the provision of ecosystem services
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- Lima, L.S., Coe, M.T., Soares Filho, B.S. et al. Landscape Ecol (2014) 29: 261. doi:10.1007/s10980-013-9962-1
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Forests, through the regulation of regional water balances, provide a number of ecosystem services, including water for agriculture, hydroelectric power generation, navigation, industry, fisheries, and human consumption. Large-scale deforestation triggers complex non-linear interactions between the atmosphere and biosphere, which may impair such important ecosystem services. This is the case for the Southwestern Amazon, where three important river basins (Juruá, Purus, and Madeira) are undergoing significant land-use changes. Here, we investigate the potential impacts of deforestation throughout the Amazon on the seasonal and annual water balances of these river basins using coupled climatic and hydrologic models under several deforestation scenarios. Simulations without climate response to deforestation show an increase in river discharge proportional to the area deforested in each basin, whereas those with climate response produce progressive reductions in mean annual precipitation over all three basins. In this case, deforestation decreases the mean annual discharge of the Juruá and Purus rivers, but increases that of the Madeira, because the deforestation-induced reduction in evapotranspiration is large enough to increase runoff and thus offset the reduction in precipitation. The effects of Amazon deforestation on river discharge are scale-dependent and vary across and within river basins. Reduction in precipitation due to deforestation is most severe at the end of the dry season. As a result, deforestation increases the dry-season length and the seasonal amplitude of water flow. These effects may aggravate the economic losses from large droughts and floods, such as those experienced in recent years (2005, 2010 and 2009, 2012, respectively).