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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2019

Managing Forests for Both Downstream and Downwind Water

Creed, Irena F.; Jones, Julia A.; Archer, Emma; Claassen, Marius; Ellison, David; McNulty, Steven G.; van Noordwijk, Meine; Vira, Bhaskar; Wei, Xiaohua; Bishop, Kevin; Blanco, Juan A.; Gush, Mark; Gyawali, Dipak; Jobbagy, Esteban; Lara, Antonio; Little, Christian; Martin-Ortega, Julia; Mukherji, Aditi; Murdiyarso, Daniel; Pol, Paola Ovando;
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Forests and trees are key to solving water availability problems in the face of climate change and to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. A recent global assessment of forest and water science posed the question: How do forests matter for water? Here we synthesize science from that assessment, which shows that forests and water are an integrated system. We assert that forests, from the tops of their canopies to the base of the soils in which trees are rooted, must be considered a key component in the complex temporal and spatial dimensions of the hydrologic cycle. While it is clear that forests influence both downstream and downwind water availability, their actual impact depends on where they are located and their processes affected by natural and anthropogenic conditions. A holistic approach is needed to manage the connections between forests, water and people in the face of current governance systems that often ignore these connections. We need policy interventions that will lead to forestation strategies that decrease the dangerous rate of loss in forest cover and that-where appropriate-increase the gain in forest cover. We need collective interventions that will integrate transboundary forest and water management to ensure sustainability of water supplies at local, national and continental scales. The United Nations should continue to show leadership by providing forums in which interventions can be discussed, negotiated and monitored, and national governments must collaborate to sustainably manage forests to ensure secure water supplies and equitable and sustainable outcomes.


climate change; hydrologic cycle; forest; water; policy; mitigation; adaptation; sustainability

Published in

Frontiers in forests and global change
2019, volume: 2, article number: 64

Authors' information

Creed, Irena F.
Univ Saskatchewan
Jones, Julia A.
Oregon State Univ
Archer, Emma
Univ Pretoria
Claassen, Marius
Univ Pretoria
Ellison Consulting
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Resource Management
McNulty, Steven G.
US Forest Serv
van Noordwijk, Meine
World Agroforestry Ctr
Vira, Bhaskar
Univ Cambridge
Wei, Xiaohua
Univ British Columbia Okanagan
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment
Blanco, Juan A.
Univ Publ Navarra
Gush, Mark
Royal Hort Soc
Gyawali, Dipak
Nepal Acad Sci and Technol
Jobbagy, Esteban
Univ Nacl San Luis
Lara, Antonio
Ctr Climate and Resilience Res CR2
Little, Christian
Ctr Climate and Resilience Res CR2
Martin-Ortega, Julia
Univ Leeds
Mukherji, Aditi
Int Water Management Inst
Murdiyarso, Daniel
Bogor Agr Univ
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Associated SLU-program

Lakes and watercourses

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG6 Clean water and sanitation
SDG12 Responsible consumption and production

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences
Forest Science

Publication Identifiers


URI (permanent link to this page)