Of all the ecological services of forests, a sustainable water supply may be the most important. Streamflow from forests provides two-thirds of fresh
water supply in the United States. Removing forest cover temporarily increases the proportion of precipitation that becomes streamflow, and
this effect has spurred political pressure to cut trees for the purpose of augmenting water supply, especially in western states where population
and water demand are rising. However, this strategy is not sustainable: increases in flow are typically short-lived, and the combination of roads
and repeated timber harvests can degrade water quality and increase vulnerability to flooding. Forest hydrology, the study of how water
flows through forests, can help illuminate the connections between forests and water, but it must advance if it is to deal with current
complex issues, including climate change, wildfires, changing patterns of development and ownership, and changing societal values. These are
the main conclusions of a recent report released by the National Research Council, �Hydrologic effects of a changing forest landscape� (NRC, 2008).
This commentary summarizes and interprets findings from the report focusing on important implications for hydrologists.
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