World news – The researcher recommends a systematic approach to forest and water supply management

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March 22, 2021

from the University of British Columbia

As World Water Day is celebrated around the globe, new research from UBC Okanagan suggests that taking a systematic approach to forest and water supply research can lead to better assessment and understanding of the relationships between the two.

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Healthy forests play an important role in a clean and stable water supply, says ecohydrologist Dr. Adam Wei.

Forests in water catchment areas that act as natural reservoirs release and purify water by slowing erosion and retarding its release into streams. But forests change – in part due to human activity – and this affects how forests interact with hydrological processes.

Dr. Wei, Chair of Waterways Research and Management at Forest Renewal BC, is Professor of Earth, Environmental and Geosciences at the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science and co-author of the study.

He says activities like deforestation, Deforestation, the creation of new forests on previously bare land, agriculture and urbanization are changing the forest landscape worldwide.

« The idea that humans have left enormous, often negative marks on nature, is not new, » he says. « That is why the term Anthropocene was created to describe these phenomena. But now we need to recognize where we are and find a way to fix what is broken. »

Natural disturbances like insect infestations and forest fires also contribute to the rapid transformation of forests and prompt Dr. Wei to examine current forest water research and management practices. His goal is to identify the gaps and propose a new approach that reflects numerous variables and their interactions that may play a role in a particular watershed.

He refers to an example in the study to illustrate the need for a new perspective.

« We studied the effects of deforestation on the annual flow of electricity – and while we concluded that deforestation increased it, the differences between the studies were large, increasing between less than one Percent and almost 600 percent, « he explains.

 » We concluded that this was because water in the soil and on plants evaporated due to a loss of forest cover, « explains Wei. « But the amount that was lost was between less than two percent and 100 percent – that is a big difference, due to the extent, type and severity of the forest disturbance and the climate and location of the water catchment areas. There are so many variables that What are needed Not being considered and not doing so can lead to conflicting research results. « 

To limit the differences, future research and watershed management approaches need to be systematic and related to important factors and a wide range of responses hydrological services.

« Implementing a systematic approach to all forest water research will reduce the likelihood of misleading assessments, which in turn will give us a better chance of solving some of the problems we have created, » says Dr. White

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