Managing floods and droughts with forests

Payments for ecosystem services became a buzzword in the past few years, even the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy has strong focus on restoring ecosystem services of habitats in the member states.

A new report from the European Environmental Agency (EEA) provides now a new argument for higher valuation of forests due to their water retention potential. The preliminary results though need further investigation in order to draw any conclusions in relation to the water retention potential of protected and managed forests.

The EEA reports states that forests can retain excess rainwater, prevent extreme run-offs and reduce the damage from flooding. They can also help mitigate the effects of droughts. Water retention has an important role to play in buffering the effects of heavy rainfall and droughts. A better understanding of this role can help develop measures to tackle the effects of climate change and extreme weather events.

The volume of water retained by forests can depend on characteristics such as forest cover area, the length of vegetation growing season, tree composition and tree density, as well as the age and the number of layers of vegetation cover. Water retention by forests affects the amount and timing of the water delivered to streams and groundwater by increasing and maintaining infiltration and storage capacity of the soil. Forests can soak up excess rainwater, preventing run-offs and damage from flooding. By releasing water in the dry season, forests can also help provide clean water and mitigate the effects of droughts.

The full report is available here

(source: EEA website)

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