'Watering the forest for the trees' emerging as priority for forest management

Jun 04, 2013

A new analysis led by the U.S. Forest Service's Pacific Northwest Research Station encourages resource managers to consider a broadened view of forests as consumers of water.

A shift in thinking toward reducing the risk of to vegetation can help forests maintain their resilience and health in a , according to a paper published online in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

"Our work emphasizes how forests primarily need and consume , and so managing forest health requires thinking about how much water is available for forests, how forests use that water, and how management strategies can mitigate increasing ," said station research hydrologist Gordon Grant, who led the analysis.

More than half of the U.S. water supply comes from forest lands where most precipitation falls, filters through soil, and, ultimately, becomes streamflow. Current research demonstrates that many of the growing threats facing forests, like wildfire and insect outbreaks, are linked to water stress from combinations of drought and a warming climate. Climate change is projected to increase forest water stress in many areas.

Along with co-authors Christina Tague, from the University of California, Santa Barbara; and Craig Allen, from the U.S. Geological Survey, Grant reviewed a range of studies—mostly from the western U.S. and in drought-stressed forests—to identify management strategies that may retain water for forests, such as thinning and conservation.

Then, to demonstrate the potential effects of water-enhancing strategies, the researchers used a model of vegetation, water, and carbon cycling on a forest site in New Mexico's Bandelier National Monument, which recently experienced a multi-year drought and associated . Modeling revealed that substantial ponderosa pine mortality during the 2002-2003 drought might have been prevented by small increases in plant-available water via forest thinning, mulching to reduce evaporation from the soil, or irrigation.

"Many of the strategies for addressing increased drought stress are consistent with established forest management objectives and practices, but increasing water availability to forests through the use of specifically designed management activities has not been an explicit goal," Grant said. "Ultimately, these strategies would need to be tailored to particular management objectives and landscapes."

Explore further: Greener cities are cooler cities in summer: new guide reveals how

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Team conducts unprecedented analysis of microbial ecosystem

Nov 26, 2014

An international team of scientists from the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and The Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) have completed a first-of-its-kind microbial analysis of a biological ...

Foragers find bounty of edibles in urban food deserts

Nov 18, 2014

With the gusto of wine enthusiasts in a tasting room, UC Berkeley professors Philip Stark and Tom Carlson eye, sniff and sample their selections, pronouncing them "robust," "lovely," "voluptuous"—and even ...

Recommended for you

Gold rush an ecological disaster for Peruvian Amazon

1 hour ago

A lush expanse of Amazon rainforest known as the "Mother of God" is steadily being destroyed in Peru, with the jungle giving way to mercury-filled tailing ponds used to extract the gold hidden underground.

Australia out of step with new climate momentum

4 hours ago

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who rose to power in large part by opposing a tax on greenhouse gas emissions, is finding his country isolated like never before on climate change as the U.S., China ...

Education is key to climate adaptation

18 hours ago

Given that some climate change is already unavoidable—as just confirmed by the new IPCC report—investing in empowerment through universal education should be an essential element in climate change adaptation ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.