Did you know that trees are mostly water? Well that is a fact. When you cut or fell a tree you will likely have a green tree (fresh cut) that is around 60% water.
Now I am simply stating a well know fact here about trees nothing more. If you don’t believe me that trees are mostly water when first felled, then please feel free to search this topic on google or talk with a forester.
Now consider what is happening in the Amazon right now (big forest fires) a lot of people are talking a lot about how much carbon is being release into the environment and how, as a result of these fires, we are losing the lungs of the earth on a daily basis. This is a good point BUT that said why is no one talking about how much water is being released into the environment as a result of these fires? When you think about it one of the biggest problems faced by the world today is extreme wet weather, not a lack of oxygen or over generation of carbon dioxide (only 0.04% of air is carbon dioxide which is well below dangerous levels in respect to breathing).
Well the reason may be down to the fact that we have all become centrally focused on one compound (carbon dioxide) as a result of popular science. When people say “act based on the science” they actually mean “act based on popular science” and not the actual science that may be unpopular.
Take trees – they are a hydrocarbons. When burnt trees produce various forms of carbon emissions, all of which are heavier than air. So when trees burn yes there is a lot of carbon released into the air (carbon black, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide) but these emission remains in the local environment i.e. carbon emission drop back down to or close to the earths surface once the air cools, so these emissions remain in the Amazon basin. Water on the other hand (which is released as a result of burning trees) rises into the air as a result of the water turning to steam. The heat of the air carries the water up high into the atmosphere and thus this water enters the Troposphere and the clouds formed there.
Now consider the recent reports on the Amazon. “The fires have been releasing a large amount of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of 228 megatonnes so far this year…” Now if the fires have released this amount of carbon dioxide as proposed, then they will have equally released the equivalent of 342 million tonnes of acidic water into our environment (not including any ground water evaporated as a result of the fires). Now this is a lot of water especially when you consider that water aerosols can affect the structures of cloud formations and cause them to last longer and travel further.
If there are fewer trees to absorb this water what do you think will happen when it does come back down to the surface of the earth? Hydrological disasters (more extreme weather).
When we talk about trees we talk about carbon offsetting or carbon neutrality if trees are used as a fuel, but we never talk about the water. If you cut a tree, dry it and use it for something (not burning it) many will say that you have locked in the carbon and so planting and then using the tree to make furniture has been a good way to “carbon offset”. They don’t consider the water that has been released in to the environment. Yes the carbon has been locked in but the water has been released AND as a result of felling the trees in question the water courses have been affected as have the ground water conditions (nothing to absorb the water and so this leads to a higher water table). The same is true when burning the trees as a biomass (only worse). When you burn the wood from a tree (short roundwood or branches) then you are not only releasing the carbon back into the environment but you are also directly releasing the water back into the environment.
Regardless of the reason for felling the wood or burning the wood, the one big issue that is to date being ignore is the release of water due to communities/ businesses collectively felling or burning trees. Trees are mostly water so instead of carbon dioxide being the main argument for protecting trees I propose it should be that trees are an excellent water lock and as such help maintain water levels in the world.
If the Amazon rain forest continues to burn then perhaps the issue will not be the amount of carbon release into the local environment, nor the amount of carbon that can be absorbed in the future BUT rather the amount of water release locally and high into the Troposphere. Note the Amazon is already a very wet climate, adding to that climate with more water and less trees to absorb that water is only going to do one thing – create more extreme hydrological events.