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The central role of forests in the 2021 European floods

Authors
  • Insua-Costa, Damián
  • Senande-Rivera, Martín
  • Llasat, María Carmen
  • Miguez-Macho, Gonzalo
Type
Published Article
Journal
Environmental Research Letters
Publisher
IOP Publishing
Publication Date
Jun 01, 2022
Volume
17
Issue
6
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/ac6f6b
Source
ioppublishing
Keywords
Disciplines
  • Letter
License
Unknown

Abstract

Plants play a key role in the hydrological cycle, yet their contribution to extreme rainfall remains uncertain. Here we show that more than half of the vast amounts of water accumulated in the recent Germany and Belgium floods were supplied by vegetation (41% from transpiration, 11% from interception loss). We found that intercontinental transport of moisture from North American forests (which contributed more than 463 billion liters of water to the event) was a more important source than evaporation over nearby seas, such as the Mediterranean or the North Sea. Our results demonstrate that summer rainfall extremes in Europe may be strongly dependent on plant behavior and suggest that significant alterations in vegetation cover, even of remote regions, could have a direct effect on these potentially catastrophic events.

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