[permaculture] QRY: Evidence of reforestation increasing rainfall?

Keith Johnson keithdj at mindspring.com
Thu May 28 11:11:05 EDT 2009

I just posted to my blog the story about forest restoration in Borneo 
that has resulted in a return of rain documented with satellite imaging 
over a period of years. It's a good place to start.

      Willie Smits restores a rainforest


Chris Wardle wrote:
> I'm running into a research stumbling block and wonder if this
> somewhat public musing could tap into the greater wisdom accessible
> through cyber-networking?
> But first some background ...
> A month or so ago I was doing some bushwalking in the North-East of
> Pakistan's Balochistan Province, with one of my younger
> brothers-in-law, Danish. As we reached the top of a large mesa-like
> hill called Dhera and looked out at his - and my beloved's - home
> village of Phugla to the north, we were struck by how few trees we
> saw.
> This got us to chatting about climate change, the area's potential for
> agro-forestry, and the possible impact of large scale tree planting on
> the weather pattern.
> Within twenty kilometres to the northwest, native Olive trees thrive
> in the area's sandy soils and hot summer, which prompted me to ask,
> "With a similar climate and soil, why don't people look to plant
> commercial Olive varieties here?"
> It was a question we later repeated with community members and their
> answers seemed to confirm our prediction that it rested somewhere
> between:
> * a lack of awareness,
> * an unwillingness to collaborate or experiment, and
> * no patience to wait for the long-term gains offered through agro-forestry.
> Well, these are challenges we'll return to another time, but as we
> discussed climate change, Danish noted that there was much more
> reliable rainfall fifteen to twenty years ago and remarked that if
> tree loss accounted for a decrease in rainfall, would reforestation
> improve the rainfall pattern and how much effort would people have to
> put in, to effect real change?
> "Specifically," he asked, "how many trees would every person in this
> community have to plant, in order to increase our rainfall - five,
> ten, fifty trees each?"
> In answering I said I didn't know, but thought it might be in the
> order of thousands, but that was just a very rough guess and I would
> go and find out for him.
> So, after a very long introduction, here's my question:
> Is there any well-documented evidence that reforestation mitigates the
> negative impacts of climate change by increasing rainfall, and on what
> sort of scale do we begin to see such effects, if they exist?
> When I look at policy-level climate change mitigation strategies, I
> consistently read that we need to plant more trees, but this seems to
> be based on documented evidence of tree loss. Sure, there is evidence
> that tree planting decreases erosion and increases soil moisture
> retention, but I am yet to find references to positive rainfall gains
> from reforestation.
> Please don't get me wrong, I'm very much on board with this issue. In
> the previous century I've encouraged and worked with my children on
> community tree plantings in my home town of Darwin and on saving the
> one remaining remnant of tropical rainforest on the fringe of Darwin
> city - the Duke Street Rainforest. More recently, my beloved Maha and
> I spent four wonderful months of joyful, practical learning during our
> voluntary permaculture internship on an organic coffee plantation in
> Nepal.
> In my heart of hearts and from my permaculture training, I feel that a
> reforestation strategy should work to increase rainfall, but my
> attempts to uncover hard evidence keep running into a brick wall.
> Maybe I'm not using the right search terms or looking in the right
> places, so I turn to you, dear reader, for guidance and possible
> permaculture solutions and research experience in this regard.
> Thanks in anticipation of your kind responses and my apologies for
> cross-posting.
> Looking forward to hearing from you in due course and wishing you
> salaams from Quetta,
> Chris Wardle.
> ===========
> skype: cjwardle
> mobile: +92 333 784 1679
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Keith Johnson
"Be fruitful and mulch apply."
Permaculture Activist Magazine
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