Scientists have warned that the destruction of the Amazon rainforest could lead to a massive drop in the amount of electricity generated by Brazil’s hydropower industry.
Researchers from the Amazon Environmental Research Institute International Programme (IPAM-IP) said that deforestation had already caused an up to 7% drop in rainfall in the Amazon Basin.
A report published in United States journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences argued that falls in rainfall resulting from deforestation directly affected the streams and rivers that drive hydropower turbines.
The report warns that Brazil’s controversial Belo Monte dam, said to be the world’s third largest hydropower project, could deliver 30% less power than currently estimated. This would mean power for up to 4M Brazilians would have to be generated elsewhere.
IPAM-IP added that by 2050 40% of the rainforest could be lost, leading to a drop of up to 40% in hydroelectricity output. There are about 45 major hydro schemes at the planning stage in Brazil.
Executive director of IPAM-IP Daniel Nepstad told BBC News: “We now have very strong evidence that Brazil’s ability to generate electricity depends on forest conservation.
“These results aren’t just important for Brazil – rainforest cover could affect energy production in wet tropical areas throughout the Amazon, and in Africa and South East Asia as well.”