March 21 is the International Day of Forests – we celebrate the ways in which forests and trees sustain and protect us. This year we are raising awareness of how forests are key to the planet’s supply of freshwater, which is essential for life.
Facts about Forests and Water
1. Forested watersheds and wetlands supply 75% of the world’s accessible fresh water for domestic, agricultural, industrial and ecological needs
2. About one-third of the world’s largest cities obtain a significant proportion of their drinking water directly from forested protected areas
3. 8 out of 10 people are exposed to high levels of threat to water security.
By 2050, an extra 2.3 billion people will be living in river basins under severe water stress, especially in North and South Africa, and South and Central Asia.
4. Forests act as natural water filters.
Forests minimize soil erosion on site, reduce sediment in water bodies (wetlands, ponds, lakes, streams, rivers) and trap or filter water pollutants in the forest litter.
5. Forests are at the forefront of reducing the effects of climate change (i.e. heat, floods, droughts, landslides).
Forests have a cooling effect on the environment (through evapotranspiration and shade). Forest cover may limit the impact and occurrence of floods, droughts and landslides. Moreover, large-scale deforestation can have an impact on precipitation patterns.
6. Improved water resource management can show considerable economic gains
By 2030, the world is projected to face a 40 percent global water deficit under the business-as-usual climate scenario. However, every US$1 invested in watershed protection can save anywhere from US$7.5 to almost US$200 in costs of a new water treatment and filtration facility. In developing countries, a US$15 to US$30 billion investment in improved water resources management could have direct annual income returns in the range of US$60 billion.
7. Forests have a crucial role in building and strengthening resilience
When sustainably managed, forests contribute significantly to reducing soil erosion and the risk of landslides and avalanches. Forests reduce the effects of small-scale, frequent or local flooding, and prevent and reduce dryland salinity and desertification. Partial or complete removal of tree cover accelerates water discharge, increasing the risk of floods during the rainy season and drought in the dry season. However, the services provided by ecosystems around the world, particularly wetlands, are in decline. Between US$4.3 and US$20.2 trillion per year of ecosystem services were lost between 1997 and 2011 due to land use change.
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Learn more on the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations website.