Continued deforestation of the Amazon rainforest could diminish the amount of rain that falls in the Amazon River basin. Such a decline could potentially alter the region’s climate, disrupting rainforest ecosystems and impacting local economies, a new report published by the American Geophysical Union claims.

According to the authors, Dominick Spracklen from the University of Leeds in the UK and Luis Garcia-Carreras from Stockholm University in Sweden, drought years could become the norm for the Amazon by 2050 if deforestation rates rebound. Should these rates revert back to pre-2004 levels, by the middle of the century annual rainfall in the Amazon could be less than the yearly amount of rain the region receives during drought years.

Recent droughts in the Amazon in 2005 and 2010 showed that sustained reductions in rainfall could have massive consequences for Brazil’s economy, Spracklen said. Less rain could affect agriculture, which currently generates US$15B a year for Brazil’s economy, and hydropower which generates 65% of the country’s electricity.

Furthermore the Amazon rainforest plays an important role in the global carbon cycle, so changes to Amazonian climate could affect global climate and weather, the study’s authors go on to explain.

Deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon started on a large scale in the 1970s and peaked in 2004 before government restrictions curbed land clearing practices there. In recent years deforestation has increased in other Amazonian countries and Brazil is now facing pressure to convert more forest to pasture and crop land.