Cooling forest rainbow water vital contributor to farmer livelihoods

This blog was first published on the website of Landscape News

Cherangani Forest in Kenya looms behind a monoculture of cypress trees. Image by Sophie Mbugua for Mongabay

Forests are widely recognized as critical to essential ecosystem services like clean water and air, but some of their greatest benefits are invisible to the human eye and have not been picked up in policy discussions.

Forests interact with the climate over long periods of time, as they store carbon — a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change — in their trunks, branches, leaves and roots, which they use to grow.

They also build up soil carbon stocks. This makes healthy, standing forests invaluable in global efforts to prevent rising global temperatures through greenhouse gas emissions.

Forests, however, interact with climate more directly, as they use water to cool themselves and their surroundings, releasing moisture into the atmosphere — what we call “rainbow water.”

In an important but understudied aspect of the world’s water cycle, this invisible moisture comes back as rainfall nearby and very far from forests, depending on the location on the globe.

A new report released last week that I co-authored seeks to elevate our understanding of this phenomenon.

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Meine van Noordwijk

Meine van Noordwijk is a Distinguished Research Fellow at the World Agroforestry Centre. He joined the organization in 1993. Dr van Noordwijk guided the global integration of the Centre’s science and co-led ICRAF's global research program on environmental services. He also participated in a number of bilateral projects and is professor of agroforestry at Wageningen University, The Netherlands.

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