How Does Deforestation Affect the Water Cycle?

How Does Deforestation Affect the Water Cycle?

How Deforestation Affects the Water Cycle?


The Earth’s water cycle relies heavily on trees as trees absorb water and release it through their leaves. Any reduction of trees in a particular area drastically affects the humidity levels in the atmosphere, thereby affecting the set process of the water cycle.

Forests act as a giant reservoir of water, which they slowly release into the environment, that keeps the water cycle going continuously. Take, for example, the Amazon rainforest that plays a significant role in the water cycle of the adjacent areas. The Amazon rainforest has about 390 billion individual trees. Approximately 17% of it has been destroyed since 1970.

By reducing the number of trees, deforestation disturbs the ability of the forest to recycle the water which then leads to lower rainfall, global warming and climate change.

How Does Deforestation Affect the Water Cycle?

The water cycle is the movement of water through the atmosphere. While most of the processes are physical, there are also biotic components. Deforestation disrupts the water cycle by altering the transpiration process. Each tree acts as a water storage container, absorbing it from the soil and then slowly releasing it through its leaves. The evaporation leads to cloud formation, and the water ultimately comes down as rain, kick-starting the whole process again.

When significant numbers of trees are cut down, it disturbs the evaporation level and dries up the moisture needed to continue the water cycle. This affects water cycle balance and can lead to drought in critical agricultural areas. Additionally, deforestation decreases precipitation by affecting the aquifer resources.

Trees contribute to the transition of water from earthbound liquid to gas in the atmosphere through the transpiration of their leaves. Tree layers, branches, roots, and canopy store water and release it into the atmosphere. These layers of vegetation reduce the impact of storms while preventing the flow of runoff and increasing temperature.

Deforestation decreases the number of trees, which causes the temperatures to rise. Without transpiration, the water stays in the Earth, which warms the planet and increases energy levels. This weakens the rain cycle and creates irregular rainfall patterns.

In Texas, deforestation has caused a 25 percent decrease in rainfall. These changes negatively affect agricultural productivity.

Further, the resulting heat will increase temperatures, which will cause a more severe drought. The result will be more frequent and widespread, which will cause global warming.

What Does Deforestation Do to The Water Cycle?

As forests grow, they store and ultimately release large amounts of water into the atmosphere. This water is essential for the water cycle, as it replenishes clouds and instigates rain.

Unfortunately, deforestation leads to less water in the atmosphere—the reduction of moisture results in the loss of precious rain. The remaining water eventually evaporates in the absence of rain, leaving the land permanently dry.

Moreover, trees pull carbon dioxide out of the air, a crucial element in the water cycle. Besides, clearing forests also results in an increase of about 24% in global greenhouse gas emissions, which causes global warming.

Deforestation is estimated to be the second leading cause after human activity of climate change by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Therefore, while many people might not consider deforestation a significant issue, it is a serious concern.


How Can Deforestation Affect Water Quality?

The loss of forests can alter the quality of water in a major way. Furthermore, the loss of trees in forests can have climatic consequences. The effects of deforestation on water quality are prominent. One highly negative impact of deforestation is soil erosion. In the absence of tree cover, there is nothing to hold the soil cover.

The decrease of forest area increases the rate of soil erosion, resulting in higher sediment flux and turbidity in water. This leads to lower water quality and increased costs associated with drinking water treatment. As a result, many people will have a more challenging time accessing clean waters.

According to research done in Malawi – an African country with a high deforestation rate, there is a clear link between forest and clean drinking water. Researchers found that a 14% decrease in forest cover has led to a 9% reduction in precipitation – a clear indicator that forests are essential in maintaining water bodies.

As we continue to clear forests for agricultural use, it affects the availability of clean water for human consumption. The researchers hope that the study will help people make informed decisions about protecting drinking water. As forests are highly important, the water quality in their catchment may be at stake. Therefore, it is vital to prevent deforestation and make it a priority.


Deforestation has a variety of adverse effects on the water cycle. Without trees, the area will lack moisture and become a dry, arid desert. Furthermore, in the absence of rain, these areas will lose freshwater sources. As a result, the deforested land becomes a barren desert. Trees also store and release a large amount of carbon. Therefore, deforestation also damages the carbon cycle. Because forests have a significant role in the water cycle, they heavily influence the amount of precipitation in the area. If forests are not preserved, it will ultimately lead to lower rainfall resulting in the depletion of water resources. As a result, there will be a significant reduction in clean water available to the population.