Programme Forêts et eau

Forests and Water Action Plan launched at XIV World Forestry Congress


One-third of the world’s largest cities—including New York, Mumbai and Bogotá—rely directly on forests for a large proportion of their drinking water.

A new five-year action plan for forests and water was launched today at the XIV World Forestry Congress. The plan brings together policy makers, natural resource managers and researchers to better integrate water and forestry management to benefit people and the environment.

‘Forests and Water: A Five-Year Action Plan’ is an initiative of the ‘Forests and Water Agenda,’ a partnership of international organizations, academia, civil society and the private sector.

Forest watersheds play a crucial role in providing domestic, agricultural and commercial water, and forest conservation is key to sustaining water quality and availability. They also provide essential ecosystem services such as protecting against soil erosion, filtering pollutants, regulating water flows, mitigating floods, droughts and salinity. As such, forests are natural managers of water, helping to regulate surface and groundwater flows, maintaining atmospheric moisture, and reducing water sedimentation and pollutants. Food security, climate change and landscape resilience are also intimately linked to forests and water.

The action plan comes at a time when demands on the world’s forests are growing. The plan’s implementation will increase international research on forest-water interactions to fill knowledge gaps, support forest-water policies, and engage in capacity development for a wide range of stakeholders.

The initiative promises to generate new knowledge and evidence on forest-water interactions that feeds into the post-2015 sustainable development agenda, to be discussed at the upcoming UN General Assembly – providing countries with the assistance they need to implement more environmentally-friendly forest management strategies and meet their Sustainable Development Goals. The Plan will engage with stakeholders worldwide, helping to address global issues such as climate change, water availability, and food security.

Despite the crucial environmental role that forests play in water resource management, there is still much to be understood about forest–water interactions. To be effective, these concerns need to be reflected in national and international policies and agreements.

The contributors to the plan’s content bring diverse knowledge and experience.

FAO has been a leader in the Forests and Water Agenda, taking the lead in organizing milestone events, including the International Forests and Water Dialogue of the WFC.

The International Network of Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) provides evidence on the unique role that bamboo can play in water conservation, including its high water absorption capacity, a canopy that reduces evapotranspiration and conserves soil moisture, and a dense root system that enhances water infiltration.

World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), one of the contributors to the Action Plan, researches and delivers knowledge on the right tree for the right place, for application by farmers throughout the developing world. Forest and tree cover has a direct impact on water and soil — the basis of food production. But not all trees are suitable for all areas.

The International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) has recently set up a Task Force on Forests, Soil and Water Interactions with the aim to provide the basis for coherent management responses that build on an enhanced understanding of forests, soil and water interactions. These responses will also be informed by consideration of economic and cultural factors that affect adoption of new approaches and technologies.

Activities of this Task Force, whose members come from across all continents and bring a wide range of perspectives, are aimed at supporting the goals and objectives of the Five-year Forests and Water Action Plan.