Revealing invisible water: moisture recycling as an ecosystem service
An ecosystem service is a benefit derived by humanity that can be traced back to an ecological process. Although ecosystem services related to surface water have been thoroughly described, the relationship between atmospheric water and ecosystem services has been mostly neglected, and perhaps misunderstood. Recent advances in land-atmosphere modeling have revealed the importance of terrestrial ecosystems for moisture recycling. In this paper, we analyze the extent to which vegetation sustains the supply of atmospheric moisture and precipitation for downwind beneficiaries, globally. We simulate land-surface evaporation with a global hydrology model and track changes to moisture recycling using an atmospheric moisture budget model, and we define vegetation-regulated moisture recycling as the difference in moisture recycling between current vegetation and a hypothetical desert world. Our results show that nearly a fifth of annual average precipitation falling on land is from vegetation-regulated moisture recycling, but the global variability is large, with many places receiving nearly half their precipitation from this ecosystem service. The largest potential impacts for changes to this ecosystem service are land-use changes across temperate regions in North America and Russia. Likewise, in semi-arid regions reliant on rainfed agricultural production, land-use change that even modestly reduces evaporation and subsequent precipitation, could significantly affect human well-being. We also present a regional case study in the Mato Grosso region of Brazil, where we identify the specific moisture recycling ecosystem services associated with the vegetation in Mato Grosso. We find that Mato Grosso vegetation regulates some internal precipitation, with a diffuse region of benefit downwind, primarily to the south and east, including the La Plata River basin and the megacities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. We synthesize our global and regional results into a generalized framework for describing moisture recycling as an ecosystem service. We conclude that future work ought to disentangle whether and how this vegetation-regulated moisture recycling interacts with other ecosystem services, so that trade-offs can be assessed in a comprehensive and sustainable manner.
Research news | 2024-02-20
Having good neighbours and few top predators make predatory fish populations more resilient
A regime shift is gradually spreading through the archipelagos of the Swedish Baltic Sea coast, where shallow bays, previously dominated by pike and perch have one by one become dominated by one of their prey species, the three-spined stickleback.
Research news | 2024-02-08
Eating new plant-based foods can be good for the environment, your health and your economy
Replacing animal-source foods with plant-based alternatives or whole foods decreases environmental impact, meets nutrition recommendations, and can be cost-competitive with the current average Swedish diet
Research news | 2024-01-29
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Research news | 2024-01-24
Centralised social networks can hinder innovation by making decision-making too similar
Social systems where influence is centred around one or two individuals can lead to pack mentality and groupthink in farming communities
Research news | 2024-01-23
Planetary Commons: Fostering global cooperation to safeguard critical Earth system functions
We should look at tipping elements of the Earth system as global commons, argue researchers in a new paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Research news | 2024-01-22
Soy: A world journey from success to uncertainty
From a bean valued for its multitude of functions in ancient China to one of the most traded agricultural commodities of the modern world: the soybean has gone through dramatic changes throughout the millennia.