Ulva Island rain forest in New Zealand.
It’s clear that cutting down rain forests to plant crops, however fulfilling in the short-term for a farmer, is a disaster for the millions of species living there. But it could also, in the long term, be a disaster for the farmer. A recent study in Nature combines rainfall data, satellite images showing tree cover, and atmospheric modeling to show that air that has passed over tropical forests often carries at least twice as much water as air that’s passed over less leafy land. That means that large-scale cutting of rain forests can result in catastrophic drought for hundreds of miles around.