Biosphere Earth — 19, Reconstruction Priorities

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I should say: it stands to reason that rebuilding bio-physical functionality, by rebuilding Biosphere Earth (our life-support system) can only help us restore and retain bio / climate health and security.

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Bio-physical functionality, “Cycles of Moisture & Life ”

As brilliant as today’s science is i have yet to see any models for “reversing” climate change or improving the climate that make sense (on any level, geoengineering, seriously??) for the productivity of Earth.

What about rebuilding lost wildernesses?

We have tons of science, re: the physical impacts wildernesses have on the weather, our climate, temperatures, and “teleconnections” (weather / temperature / moisture system interactions around the globe). We know which wildernesses are most powerful and we know that bio-physical loss and damage are beating global warming in the race to destroy our future.

What about reconstructing wilderness ecosystems with the circa 1995 biosphere as our guide?

Here’s a huge example: The Atlantic Tropical Forest

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The Atlantic tropical forest loss, in red (2014)

Brazil actually had (not “has”) two, giant tropical forests until recently. The Amazon, everyone knows. “The Atlantic” Tropical Forest, which has been nearly erased in the last 50 years by rapid growth, is not so famous. (Image above)

Less than 7% of The Atlantic’s original canopy stands in Brazil today, less than 13% in Paraguay. Yet restoring it, rebuilding it — what might that bring?

If you’ve read blog 12, Regrowing a Beautiful Climate, you know that forests move moisture through the air, year-round, and that this not only irrigates the entire planet, including our food system, in the Tropics it also helps cool the entire planet.

REbuilding the Atlantic Tropical Forest’s should be one of humanity’s primary objectives today. Not just because it’s still going in the opposite direction fast, without much forest left; not just because rebuilding it, as shown in this 2020 study, is top of the list of lowest-cost, biggest-possible ROIs on climate/biodiversity wins, but also because reconstructing The Atlantic Tropical Forest should help save the Amazon and thus, the climate and life itself.

Logically speaking, restoration of this critical continental-scale bio-physical resource, The Atlantic Tropical Forest, would enhance atmospheric moisture flow over South America such that it would not only prevent drought, which is causing wildfires and ecosystem collapse as we speak, but also cool the continent and protect food production and the food industry in South America in an infinite number of ways.

Restoration of the Atlantic’s atmospheric irrigation is the only way to set the stage for bio-physical securitization of this region, its productivity, and our future. Here are some quick mappings on the logic of this.

  1. Historical Deforestation
    Here’s a map showing deforestation since the human growth explosion. I’ve highlighted the Atlantic Tropical Forest in the 2nd panel.
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(SERC/Earth Labs)

2. Global Atmospheric Moisture Flow
Here are some mappings of global atmospheric moisture flow, also called “atmospheric rivers”. These direct and characterize moisture flow around the planet. From an atmospheric water vapor standpoint, the overall flow kinda works like this:

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Here’s video from NASA of water vapor flow. This shows the seasonality of the global atmospheric water vapor cycle, 2002–2014 (after most of the Atlantic’s deforestation). It’s easy to see atmospheric moisture flow is concentrated over the tropical forests.

More NASA Water Vapor here (Video Source)

This animation shows both water vapor & precipitation:

And here’s my very coarse breakdown of what’s happening around the former Atlantic Tropical Forest today, in terms of vapor and precipitation flows over lands and oceans:

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3. Here’s the system (basically)

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While i’m squarely making assumptions here i think it’s clear, historically, that this is the way Earth’s biospheric moisture system was working, before the recent human growth explosion. Putting this forest infrastructure back, via restoration of the Atlantic’s wilderness and integration of its wilderness functionality into the cities, food production, and commerce in the Atlantic Tropical Forest region, should be a primary focus of today’s innovation.

4. Reconstruction Priorities
The Atlantic Tropical Forest is just one of humanity’s top reconstruction priorities. This map from the 2020 study mentioned above, emphasizes the benefits of reversing forest and grassland loss in tropical Africa, Central & South America, India southeast Asia, the Coral Triangle, and Oceania, now.

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“Global Priority Areas for Ecosystem Restoration”. Red = biggest climate / biodiversity ROI. (2020)

Here’s my coarse moisture flow map again:

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Here’s Earth’s carbon absorption potential, from a mid-90s study:

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(Field, et al, 1998)

Imagine the potential of reconstructing this bio-physical functionality. There are of course other enormous possibilities. A few examples: projects like The Great Green Wall, which aims to stop the expansion of the Sahara. Harvesting seaweed to replace palm oil, enrich soils, reduce cow flatulence, absorb carbon, and protect/restore species. Rebuilding all other tropical forests and grasslands. Rebuliding coastal ecosystems and fisheries. There are many multi-faceted opportunities. Our biosphere is broken at the moment.

Only land-based biopsheric reconstruction, primarily in the tropics, can give us our weather back. The fact that reconstructing the tropics also protects habitat for +50% of all species, keeps hundreds of billions of tons of land-based carbon out of the atmosphere, protects ~25% of annual oxygen and freshwater production, prevents extreme storms from spinning up, protects the homes and identities of most of the world’s indigenous peoples, and protects the plates (the food) of more than half of the human population — uh, also matters.

Lastly, here’s a map showing how the Tropical Forest canopy (at the Equator, where it’s hottest) affects heat gain on Earth, relative to all other ecosystems.

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Tropical Forests cool the Earth.

Compare that to where we started:

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The more tropical forests, the better.

This blog is part 18 of a series on Biosphere Earth. To review other posts, visit the TOC. Thanks for reading. More tomorrow, thanks-

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