Then there is the need to better understand the specific function of forests and even individual tree species. For example, can planted trees have the same effect on hydrology as intact natural forest? “A practical question is whether we're able to mimic effects of forests,” Pokorny says. “For we can't just have forests—we need agricultural land. Can other land types, like savanna and high biomass grassland, serve some functions of trees? Are there pioneer tree species that create microclimates that help other trees grow?”
Deforestation has numerous untoward environmental consequences, including the release of carbon: about one sixth of global emissions are due to cleared or degraded forests. Such deforestation also destroys the habitat for vast variety of species, and threatens the welfare of the more than a billion people who rely on forests for their livelihoods. It may also have unforeseen impacts on the water cycle—which can in turn alter climate patterns. "If we don't pay attention to this now, we could lose our forests," Makarieva told me by phone. "This would make disaster come faster by destroying the water cycle."