Forest and Water Programme

Celebrating Forests and Water: Importance of the forest-water nexus for biodiversity and climate change


Climate change is projected to increases extreme weather events and risks of water-related disasters, such as floods, droughts and storms. Considering that over 50 percent of the world’s population are affected by water scarcity and this number is expected to reach 6.3 billion by 2050, society is expected to face reduction of livelihood assets, mainly those that are dependent on biodiversity and ecosystem services, such as access to food and shelter.

Forests have a great potential to decrease impacts of climate change on water resources by reducing the risk of floods during the rainy season and droughts in the dry season; promoting cooling effects and contributing to landscape resilience. The capacity of forests to resist climate change impacts, or recover following disturbance, is dependent on biodiversity.

Forests are among the most important biodiversity repositories and home to about 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. They maintain and support aquatic biodiversity by providing shade, protecting the soil from erosion, acting as a chemical buffer, and providing nutritious terrestrial inputs to aquatic food webs. These benefits result in food supply and security, especially for populations that rely on fisheries. The sustainable management of forests is essential for sustaining ecosystem functioning and thereby the continued and healthy provision of ecosystem services such as water resources and food production. Maintaining and restoring biodiversity in forests promotes their resilience to human-induced pressures and climate changes.

Forest degradation and deforestation as well as biodiversity loss can affect forest resilience compromising their contribution to climate change adaptation and mitigation. It is projected that 33 percent of the current forested area could be affected by climate change, especially impacting boreal forests. The challenges posed by climate change requires adjustments to forest strategies and to forest management plans and practices.Action needs to be taken to reduce the vulnerability of forests and enhance their resilience to climate change with the aim of ensuring the continued provision of vital ecosystem services and protective functions ensured by forests. Forest management should consider a comprehensive, integrated and holistic approach including forest- water relationships and biodiversity conservation.

For more information about holistic management approaches, check out the Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) toolbox Forest and Water module and Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation module.