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The public perception that forests are, in all circumstances, necessarily good for the water environment, that they increase rainfall, increase runoff, regulate flows, reduce erosion, reduce floods, “sterilize” water supplies and improve water quality, has long been questioned by the scientific community. Although this simplistic public perception has been debated since the nineteenth century (Saberwal, 1997) and a large literature is available on the debate, the evolving “modern” science perception (the reader is referred to reviews by Bosch and Hewlett (1982), Hamilton and King (1983), Hamilton (1987), Bruijnzeel (1990), Calder (1992), particularly as regards tropical forests, and the more recent reviews, in the light of new studies, by Calder (1999, 2000) and Bruijnzeel (2001, 2002)) suggests a more complex and generally less advantageous functioning of forests in relation to the water environment. In a world where increasing demands are being made on water resources for food production, for domestic consumption, for industrial use and for ecological purposes, there is a greater awareness that the costs of the generally higher water use of forests as compared with other vegetation types needs to be evaluated in relation to their benefits for timber and conservation, amenity recreation and environment (CARE) products and for supporting livelihoods. Financing mechanisms which are directed at conserving environmental services and protecting indigenous forests, and which may also serve to provide compensation payments to inhabitants of upper water catchments, are being promoted in many regions of the world. But for these mechanisms to be sustainable and defensible requires that the disparity between the public and science perceptions of the role of forest needs to be addressed and also that the bio-physical and socio-economic impacts of changing land use and forest cover are understood.
Monteverde Institute MVI
Calder, Ian R., "Forests and integrated water resources management, DFID forestry research on forest and water interactions" (2022). Economy and Resource Management [Monteverde Institute]. 11.