Focus on Water – Part of Future Forest Management

Water science and technology board

According to a new federal report by the Untited States National Research Council titled “Hydrologic Effects of a Changing Forest Landscape,” forest management in the future may be as much to achieve a sustainable supply of clean water as it is for any other goal. Forest management will not increase water supplies, but it can help sustain water supplies and water quality.

Some findings from the report about forests include: most important output from forests may be water, forests provide natural filtration and storage systems for water, forests help control water yield and sediment levels, and the biggest threat is permanent conversion of forests to other land usage. A number of future research needs are also outlined in the report. To view the report, click here.



Of all the resources that forests produce, water may be the most important-streamflow from forests provides two-thirds of the nation's clean water supply. Forest managers face increasing pressure to cut trees to increase water supply for human uses, especially in western states where population is rising. However, cutting trees for short term water gains does not guarantee that water will be available in dry seasons, and it can ultimately degrade water quality and increase flooding vulnerability.

At the request of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Forest Service, the National Research Council convened a committee to examine the present report cover understanding of forest hydrology (the study of how water moves through forests), connections between forest management and attendant hydrologic effects, and directions for future research and management needs to sustain water resources from forests. The report concludes that forest hydrology must advance if it is to deal with today's complexities, and it identifies actions that scientists, forest and water managers, and citizens can take to help sustain water resources from forests.

To download a copy of the Report in Brief, click here.


Posted August 2008