Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=757186
 
 

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The Role of Tropical Forests in Supporting Biodiversity and Hydrological Integrity


Ellen M. Douglas


University of New Hampshire

Kate Sebastian


International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Charles J. Vorosmarty


University of New Hampshire

Stanley Wood


International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Kenneth M. Chomitz


World Bank, Independent Evaluation Group

June 2005

World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 3635

Abstract:     
Conservation of high-biodiversity tropical forests is sometimes justified on the basis of assumed hydrological benefits - in particular, reduction of flooding hazards for downstream floodplain populations. However, the 'far-field' link between deforestation and distant flooding has been difficult to demonstrate empirically. This simulation study assesses the relationship between forest cover and hydrology for all river basins intersecting the world's tropical forest biomes. The study develops a consistent set of pan-tropical land cover maps, gridded at one-half degree latitude and longitude. It integrates these data with existing global biogeophysical data. We apply the Water Balance Model - a coarse-scale process-based hydrological model - to assess the impact of land cover changes on runoff. We quantified these impacts of forest conversion on biodiversity and hydrology for two scenarios: historical forest conversion and the potential future conversion of the most threatened remaining tropical forests. A worst-case scenario of complete conversion of the most threatened of the remaining forested areas would mean the loss of another 3 million km2 of tropical forests. Increased annual yield from the conversion of threatened tropical forests would be less than 5% of contemporary yield in aggregate. However, about 100 million people - 80 million of them in floodplains - would experience increases of greater than 25% in annual water flows. This might be associated with commensurate increases in peak flows, though further analysis would be necessary to gauge the impact on flooding. We highlight basins in Southeast Asia, southern China, and Latin America that warrant further study.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 23

Keywords: Deforestation, biodiversity, hydrology, human vulnerability, agricultural

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Date posted: July 23, 2005  

Suggested Citation

Douglas, Ellen M. and Sebastian, Kate and Vorosmarty, Charles J. and Wood, Stanley and Chomitz, Kenneth M., The Role of Tropical Forests in Supporting Biodiversity and Hydrological Integrity (June 2005). World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 3635. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=757186 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.757186

Contact Information

Ellen M. Douglas (Contact Author)
University of New Hampshire ( email )
15 College Road
Durham, NH 03824
United States
Kate Sebastian
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ( email )
2033 K Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006
United States
Charles J. Vorosmarty
University of New Hampshire ( email )
15 College Road
Durham, NH 03824
United States
Stanley Wood
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ( email )
2033 K Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006
United States

Kenneth M. Chomitz
World Bank, Independent Evaluation Group ( email )
1818 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20433
United States
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