23 Jan 2023
Research points to how forests help in managing water
The relationship between forests and water is a critical issue that must be accorded high priority. Forest management measures can increase water yield, regulate water flow, and reduce drought stress for a forest. Forests influence the amount of water available from groundwater, surface watercourses, and water bodies in various ways. It includes intercepting precipitation, evaporating […]

The relationship between forests and water is a critical issue that must be accorded high priority. Forest management measures can increase water yield, regulate water flow, and reduce drought stress for a forest. Forests influence the amount of water available from groundwater, surface watercourses, and water bodies in various ways. It includes intercepting precipitation, evaporating moisture from vegetative surfaces, transpiring soil moisture, capturing fog water, and maintaining soil infiltrations. 

Forests are also known to maintain or improve soil infiltration and soil water storage capacity, by influencing the timing of water delivery. By minimising erosion, they minimise impairment of water quality due to sedimentation. In recent research done by scientists from North Carolina State University the role of forests, amid climate change,  has further been looked at in managing water. 

Forests have been associated with improved water yields. As a general rule, however, in temperate climate conditions, forests consume more water than other land uses, increasing pressure on water resource security. In fact, an increasing number of studies have challenged the popular idea that more forests imply more and better water. Identifying and correctly applying forest management to reduce water use is therefore a crucial aspect regarding water scarcity. 

According to recent research, keeping buffers of trees or other greenery around waterways in Raleigh, North Carolina, that are anticipated to experience increased future development could help slow rushing streams during wet conditions and keep them flowing during dry ones. They also projected the impact of climate change on precipitation and temperature, and if low-intensity development were to continue to grow. The study, "Riparian buffers increase future baseflow and reduce peak flows in a developing watershed," was published online in ‘Science of The Total Environment’.

The change in soil water storage for a given period is related to the amount of precipitation, rate of evapotranspiration (combination of the evaporation of the plants and the transpiration of the land surface to the atmosphere), surface runoff and deep drainage in a given period of time. So forest management helps with soil water storage and it is multiple and diverse.

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