Watering the Forests for the Trees: an emerging priority for managing water in forest landscapes

Pacific Northwest Research Station
Research Partners: UC Santa Barbara, US Geological Survey
Principal Investigator(s): Gordon Grant, Naomi Tague, Craig Allen

Water stress represents a common mechanism for many of the primary disturbances affecting forests, and forest management needs to explicitly address the very large physiological demands that vegetation has for water. This study demonstrates how state-of-science ecohydrologic models can be used to explore how different management strategies might improve forest health.

Project Abstract:

Widespread threats to forests due to drought stress prompt re-thinking of priorities for water management on forest lands. In contrast to the widely held view that forest management should emphasize providing water for downstream uses, we argue that maintaining forest health in the face of environmental change may require focusing on the forests themselves and strategies to reduce their vulnerability to increasing water stress in the context of a changing climate. Management strategies would need to be tailored to specific landscapes but could include: a) thinning; 2) encouraging drought-tolerant species; 3) irrigation; and 4) strategies that make more water available to plants for transpiration. Hydrologic modeling reveals that specific management actions could reduce tree mortality due to drought stress. Adopting water conservation for vegetation as a priority for managing water on forest lands would represent a fundamental change in perspective and potentially involve tradeoffs with other downstream uses of water.

Project Status: Complete
Research Results:

Watering the Forests for the Trees: an emerging priority for managing water in forest landscapes - http://www.fsl.orst.edu/wpg/pubs/13_Granteal_WFFT.pdf

Contact(s): Gordon Grant