EGU21-7697, updated on 04 Mar 2021
EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

The ‘global tree restoration potential’: a first estimation of the hydrological effects

Anne J. Hoek van Dijke1,2,3, Imme Benedict4, Kaniska Mallick1, Martin Herold3, Miriam Machwitz1, Martin Schlerf1, and Adriaan J. Teuling2
Anne J. Hoek van Dijke et al.
  • 1Remote Sensing and Natural Resources Modelling, ERIN Department, Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), Belvaux, Luxembourg
  • 2Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management Group, Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen, the Netherlands
  • 3Laboratory of Geo-Information Science and Remote Sensing, Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen, the Netherlands
  • 4Meteorology and Air Quality Group, Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen, the Netherlands

Vegetation plays an important role in the exchange of water between the land surface and the atmosphere through evaporation and redistribution of water. Hence, changes in vegetation cover alter the terrestrial hydrological cycle. Large-scale forest restoration is an effective climate change mitigation strategy through carbon sequestration and is expected to impact the water availability. A better understanding of the impact of reforestation is needed, given the numerous different reforestation missions.

Our study aims to provide an estimation of the hydrological effects of 900 million hectares of reforestation, called the ‘global tree restoration potential’ (Bastin et al., 2019). We include the effects of forest planting on evaporation and moisture recycling, where evaporation effects local water availability, and moisture recycling effects both local and remote water availability. We used the conventional Budyko’s moisture index framework to calculate the effects of reforestation on evaporation, and afterwards we used the UTrack dataset to calculate the changes in precipitation. The UTrack dataset presents the monthly climatological mean atmospheric moisture flows from evaporation to precipitation and is created using the Lagrangian moisture tracking model UTrack (Tuinenburg et al., 2020).

The results show that reforesting the ‘global tree restoration potential’ would effect water availability for most of the Earth’s surface. The global mean increase in terrestrial evaporation is 8 mm yr-1. The increase in evaporation is highest around the equator (on average 20 mm yr-1), with local maximum changes of up to 200 mm yr-1. This is related to a relatively high restoration potential in low latitude areas, and a generally large evaporation response in high precipitation regions. Enhanced moisture recycling has the potential to partly compensate for this decreased water availability by increasing the downwind precipitation.


Bastin, J.-F., Finegold, Y., Garcia, C., Mollicone, D., Rezende, M., Routh, D., Zohner, C.M., Crowther, T.W. The global tree restoration potential. Science, 365, 76-79,, 2019.

Tuinenburg, O. A., Theeuwen, J. J. E., and Staal, A.: High-resolution global atmospheric moisture connections from evaporation to precipitation, Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 12, 3177–3188,, 2020.

How to cite: Hoek van Dijke, A. J., Benedict, I., Mallick, K., Herold, M., Machwitz, M., Schlerf, M., and Teuling, A. J.: The ‘global tree restoration potential’: a first estimation of the hydrological effects, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-7697,, 2021.

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