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How vegetation influences the climate

The presence of trees and plants, that is to say of all the existing vegetation, influences the climate. At the local level, the vegetation helps to reduce the environmental temperature and generates rainfall and winds, and at the global level, it influences helping to mitigate climate change.

For this reason, today’s indiscriminate or massive logging is negatively influencing the climate, favoring the acceleration of climate change. To better understand this problem and this process of influence, in this AgroCorrn article we analyze how vegetation influences the climate and we will see the great importance that vegetation has on our planet.

You may also be interested in: How the relief influences the climate

Vegetation as a regulator of urban climate

To begin to explain how vegetation influences climate , a good starting point to understand it is urban places and their climate .

In urban areas there is an effect called the heat island effect , which is the generation of heat as a consequence of the large amounts of concrete, pavement and other materials that accumulate heat, in addition to being places where there are a large number of machines, such as cars and air conditioners, which emit heat when they work. This effect has a strong impact on the environmental sustainability of a city. Due to this, cities put the adaptation capacities of the human being to the test before high temperatures and thus the concepts of smart cities arise, urban architecture or urban ecology, which are already used as indicators of urban sustainability. Urban vegetation (plants and especially trees) provide great benefits to urban environments, making it a more pleasant life, in addition to its aesthetic and ornamental importance.

In the first place, urban vegetation improves air temperature through the control of radiation from the Sun and environmental humidity , so that vegetation regulates the climate of cities . Trees and plants provide stability to the urban temperature by raising the levels of environmental humidity through the process of evapotranspiration (elimination of water vapor through the leaves). In addition, the leaves block the passage of the Sun, managing to lower the temperature of these heat islands. In summer, the temperature of the asphalt under the shade provided by the trees can be up to 20ºC lower than if there were no such shade and the foliage of the trees makes the air between 3ºC and 5ºC cooler.

In addition, trees are like urban lungs that provide oxygen to the atmosphere and absorb CO2 through the process of photosynthesis. Vegetation also filters and scents the air and has a great ability to reduce pollution. They do this by filtering out contamination, as they trap particulates of dust, chemicals, and soot. Through photosynthesis, they also remove dangerous pollutants and absorb petroleum-based elements, preventing water systems from receiving them.

How vegetation influences the climate of urban, rural and natural places

We cannot speak of vegetation as a regulator of the global climate, but rather at the local level. In addition to the fact that vegetation has cooling effects on the local temperature , it also has another effect, the warming effect of the climate.

The presence of vegetation reduces albedo, which is the percentage of radiation that a surface reflects with respect to the radiation that falls on it, since darker colors absorb a greater amount of solar radiation and reflect less of this radiation to the outside. To this must be added that, being organisms with a rough surface, they absorb more. As a consequence, the vegetation increases the local temperature due to an increase in the heat transferred.

On the other hand, as there is greater vegetation cover, there is also more evapotranspiration, which favors condensation and the generation of clouds and local rains. In addition, more heat is expended in transferring the water from the liquid to the gaseous state, which results in a cooling of the local temperatures.

Therefore, the effect of vegetation on temperature is ambiguous. There are environments, such as urban, where cooling predominates more where the vegetation covers are not as wide and other environments, such as rural and natural environments such as jungles, where there is more vegetation, the warming effect predominates .

Vegetation influences global climate by reducing climate change

Plant communities can help reduce climate change , acting as carbon sinks thanks to their ability to absorb the CO2 we emit. Thus, good management of agricultural ecosystems and forests can help mitigate climate change by stimulating its sink effect. This includes reducing deforestation and increasing the protection of habitats and forests. However, forests can also become sources of CO2 emissions, for example in fires .

Another use of the plants is the generation of biofuels that are renewable resources, thus avoiding the use of fossil fuels. Although this would not remove CO2 from the atmosphere, it would prevent an increase in CO2 emissions. The problem is that other collateral effects could be generated, such as the increase in the prices of other crops or the cutting down of areas of the forest.

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