Global forestation and deforestation affect remote climate via adjusted atmosphere and ocean circulation.

Portmann, Raphael; Beyerle, Urs; Davin, Edouard; Fischer, Erich M; De Hertog, Steven; Schemm, Sebastian (2022). Global forestation and deforestation affect remote climate via adjusted atmosphere and ocean circulation. Nature Communications, 13(1), p. 5569. Springer Nature 10.1038/s41467-022-33279-9

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Forests can store large amounts of carbon and provide essential ecosystem services. Massive tree planting is thus sometimes portrayed as a panacea to mitigate climate change and related impacts. Recent controversies about the potential benefits and drawbacks of forestation have centered on the carbon storage potential of forests and the local or global thermodynamic impacts. Here we discuss how global-scale forestation and deforestation change the Earth's energy balance, thereby affect the global atmospheric circulation and even have profound effects on the ocean circulation. We perform multicentury coupled climate model simulations in which preindustrial vegetation cover is either completely forested or deforested and carbon dioxide mixing ratio is kept constant. We show that global-scale forestation leads to a weakening and poleward shift of the Northern mid-latitude circulation, slows-down the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, and affects the strength of the Hadley cell, whereas deforestation leads to reversed changes. Consequently, both land surface changes substantially affect regional precipitation, temperature, clouds, and surface wind patterns across the globe. The design process of large-scale forestation projects thus needs to take into account global circulation adjustments and their influence on remote climate.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


10 Strategic Research Centers > Wyss Academy for Nature
08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Climate and Environmental Physics
10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)

UniBE Contributor:

Davin, Édouard Léopold


500 Science > 530 Physics




Springer Nature




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Date Deposited:

06 Oct 2022 12:53

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 16:26

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