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Forest and Water

Forest and Water

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Published by Steve B. Salonga

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Categories:Types, Research, Science
Published by: Steve B. Salonga on Sep 06, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Water in adequate quantity and quality to meet human needs is essential, and
forests have direct and indirect roles in providing such water. Managers of the
forest estate should therefore adopt as many as possible of the guidelines given
at the end of every chapter in this document. The following are additional
recommendations for protecting and maintaining the world’s precious water:
Forest and land-use policies and programmes should be based on sound
science rather than misperception. Key water supply areas and groundwater
aquifer sites should be considered for forest retention, with minimum
disturbance. Although tree cutting (of at least 20 percent of the canopy)
produces temporary increases in water yield, there are trade-offs that must
be considered, such as reduced water quality, increased erosion and impact
on wildlife and other biodiversity. Any forest product removal in these
areas should avoid soil compaction and bare soil exposure, to minimize
surface runoff and concomitant erosion. Best practice watershed harvesting
guidelines should be strictly followed. The effects of forest restoration on
water yield also need to be considered.
It is recommended that countries officially recognize the cloud or fog forest
ecosystem in their forest classification systems, and plan for its conservation
by establishing it as legally protected forest or designating it for protective
purposes, by 2010. Techniques similar to those employed in UNEP-
WCMC’s global mapping can be used to estimate potential area in regions
that lack ground or aerial surveys (section on Mountain cloud or fog forests
in Chapter 4) (Bubbet al., 2004).
Planning authorities should identify slip-prone areas – perhaps using the
criteria suggested from Megahan and King in the section on Forests on sites
with high landslip risk in Chapter 4 – and red flag or zone them for forest
retention or agroforestry/ sylvopastoral use with fairly dense tree cover. Such
areas may then be part of the protective forest estate.
It is recommended that each country undertake an assessment of its key
riparian zones and classify them for conservation management, protection or
restoration. Adequate legislation on riparian buffer zone maintenance should
be established in each country; models are available from FAO. It is also
recommended that countries report their national regulations or guidelines
for maintenance in future FRAs.
Swamp forests should be designated as environmentally sensitive areas where
the maintenance of hydrological functions is a management and development
priority. These forests have a key role as water regulators.
Forested areas with saline subsoils or groundwater should not be cleared in

Forests and water


case this results in saline surface soil or saline drainage that affects off-site

To ensure optimum water quality, drinking-water supply catchments should
have legal status as protected areas or be designated as protective forest.
Payments for watershed services have significant potential and should be
explored further. Such payments can be part of a broader management
strategy and can support a shift in water policy to reallocate existing supplies.
This is ultimately a governance issue, involving development of the necessary
institutional arrangements. Site-specific assessment requires both research
and institutional adjustments.
It is hoped that by the time of the next FRA (2010) countries will be reporting
substantial increases in both their areas of forest (and other wooded land) in
protected areas and their areas of forest (and other wooded land) designated
for protective purposes.
Another measure of improvement for forests and water would be an
increased area of certified forest. The criteria for certification always ensure
water-friendly good practice, so increases in certification area would be good
for water resources.
It is increasingly recognized that both the availability and the quality of water
are strongly influenced by forests and that water resources in many regions
are under growing threat from overuse, misuse and pollution. The relationship
between forests and water is therefore a critical issue that must be accorded high
priority. A key challenge for land, forest and water managers is maximizing the
wide range of forest benefits without detriment to water resources and ecosystem
function. To address this challenge, there is urgent need for better understanding
of the interactions between forests/trees and water (particularly in watersheds), for
awareness raising and capacity building in forest hydrology, and for embedding
this knowledge and research findings in policies. There is also need to develop
institutional mechanisms to enhance synergies in forests and water issues, and to
implement and enforce national and regional action programmes (Calderet al.,

The most recently established political platform is the Resolution on Forests
and Water, adopted in November 2007 by the Ministerial Conference for the
Protection of Forests in Europe. This resolution has four parts: sustainable
management of forests in relation to water; coordinating policies on forests and
water; forests, water and climate change; and economic valuation of water-related
forest services.

It is hoped that in the future the link between forests and water receives
increasing attention at the national level and that decision-makers and experts in
the water and forestry sectors increase their cooperation. For future FRAs, it is
recommended that each country develop a list of national studies or publications
on forests and water and the interplay between them.



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