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  3. Abstract

    Rainforest in protected areas in the Brazilian Amazon is at risk due to increasing economic pressures and recent weakening of environmental agencies and legislation by the federal administration. This study examines the impacts of deforestation in protected areas on dry‐season precipitation in the Brazilian state of Rondônia located in the southwestern Brazilian Amazon. Regional‐climate model simulations indicate that clearing protected forests in Rondônia would result in substantial changes to the surface energy balance, including increased sensible and decreased latent heat flux. Consequent changes to low‐level wind circulation would enhance moisture flux convergence and convection over the newly deforested areas, leading to enhanced rainfall in those areas. However, deforestation of protected areas would decrease dry season rainfall up to 30% in the existing agricultural region, with potentially important negative impacts on agricultural production. Additionally, our results indicate that following deforestation, the newly degraded areas will experience warmer and drier afternoons that could place the remaining natural vegetation under vapor deficit stress.

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