Deforestation will undercut effectiveness of rainforest dams

13 May, 2013

Deforestation may significantly decrease the hydroelectric potential of tropical rainforest regions, warns a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

The study, led by Claudia M. Stickler at the International Program at the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM-International), used climate, hydrological, and land use models to forecast the impact of potential forest loss on hydropower generation on the Xingu River, a major tributary of the Amazon where the world’s third largest dam — Belo Monte — is currently under construction. They find that deforestation could inhibit rainfall and discharge by 6 to 36 percent, potentially limiting Belo Monte’s electricity output to just a quarter of its installed capacity.

Yet despite the potential impact, the researchers say that policymakers are largely failing to account for the effects of deforestation on power generation.

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