Impacts of forestation on water and soils in the Andes: What do we know?

Bonnesoeur, V., Locatelli, B. and Ochoa-Tocachi, B.F., 2018. CIFOR Info Brief 237

This brief summarises the findings of a systematic review on the impacts of forestation on water and soils in the Andes (detailed in Bonnesoeur et al., 2018).

  • Exotic tree plantations and, to a lesser extent, native forests consume water and therefore often reduce the total water supply to downstream users in most Andean regions.
  • Only in areas immersed in clouds, such as in the eastern slope of the Andes, might native forests increase downstream water availability compared to other land covers.
  • Decreased total water supply could be acceptable to many users if it confers other benefits, such as increased water availability during the dry season or a reduction in water turbidity.
  • When trees, including exotic species, are planted on degraded soils (bare and/or compacted soils), they can improve soil infiltration, reduce peak flows and control erosion.
  • Exotic tree plantations on well-conserved grasslands (páramos, jalcas, punas) have detrimental impacts on total water supply and hydrological regulation.
  • Existing native forests provide excellent water regulation and erosion control, more than mature tree plantations.
  • As restoring degraded native forests does not necessarily recover original hydrological services, the conservation of existing forests must be a priority for watershed management.
  • The hydrological impacts of native species forestation, however, have largely been overlooked and require further research.
  • Long-term hydrological monitoring and research are necessary to fill the multiple data and knowledge gaps identified in this review.

Bonnesoeur, V., Locatelli, B. and Ochoa-Tocachi, B.F., 2018. Impacts of forestation on water and soils in the Andes: What do we know? CIFOR Info Brief 237

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