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UWA researchers find correlation between land clearing and rainfall reduction

Charlotte Hamlyn, Monday November 25, 2013 - 16:37 EDT
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Jarrah trees in the Hoffman State Forest in WA. - ABC

A team of water experts has identified a correlation between widespread land clearing and a decline in rainfall in Western Australia's South West region.

Researchers from the Centre for Water Research at the University of Western Australia say there is evidence that extensive clearing, which saw 50 per cent of the South West's native forests cleared in the 1960s to 1980s, caused a 16 per cent reduction in rainfall.

Honorary Research Fellow Mark Andrich says the findings have prompted calls for urgent reforestation.

"Around half of the rainfall decline, at least up until the year 2000, is a result of land clearing," he said. .

"By implication it means that if we plant more trees or have more reforestation then there's a likelihood that rainfall could return."

He says re-planting native trees would mitigate climate change but it will take some time before it has any impact on rainfall.

"This would involve growing tall native trees including Jarrah and Karri on vacant coastal land, as well as strategically growing native trees in and around farms," he said.

"To see any effects you'd be looking at probably around at least a 20 to 30 year time frame so it's really a long-term planning and infrastructure decision.

"But it's something that also individuals can assist with on their own vacant land or on farms and unproductive land.

"With global climate change we've been blaming other countries for producing most of the CO2 but this is something that we've caused locally to a large extent and there for something we can do something about to a large extent as well."

Centre for Water Research director and co-author Jorg Imberger says the findings should be a wake-up call to decision makers.

"They need to focus on what we can do locally to make our State water self-sufficient, carbon neutral and one where our agricultural community and our biodiversity receive the same recognition as the city dwellers in Perth," he said.


© ABC 2013

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