New review of literature finds forest restoration and expansion may not improve water yields

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Aug 24, 2017


Improving water quality and quantity is sometimes cited as motivation for restoring and expanding forest cover, especially in the tropics. But a new systematic review of literature finds that most studies show a reduction in water yield in response to forest restoration and expansion. 

The study was a collaborative effort led by Associate Research Professor Solange Filoso at the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science (UMCES), and several researchers from SESYNC, including SESYNC Director Margaret Palmer, Kate Weiss, computational research assistant and Maíra Ometto Bezzera, a graduate research assistant at SESYNC and UMCES.

The researchers looked at the results of over 300 case studies from around the world and found that about 80% reported negative water yields in response to forest restoration and other forms of forest cover expansion.

Figure shows gepgraphic distribution of case studies included in the study and the affect on water yields.
Filoso et al. 2017, PLoS ONE: Fig 11. Geographic location of study cases and their water yield outcomes.


The review uncovered some positive impacts of forest restoration and expansion: reduced flood frequency and improved water infiltration into soils. These services could improve water management and mitigate flooding risk in times of high precipitation.

Read the paper in PloS ONE:
Impacts of forest restoration onwater yield: A systematic review



Associated SESYNC Researcher(s): 
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