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The amount of water that a forest uses remains an important subject of debate around the world. Trees and forests have the ability to use more water than shorter types of vegetation. This has led to concerns that major afforestation schemes could reduce water supplies, leading to water shortages and increased costs.
Much research has been undertaken to quantify the water use by different tree species or forest types, including in the UK. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to the question of how much water forests use and research continues to improve our ability to predict the impact of forestry on water supplies.
It is difficult to generalise about the effects of forestry on water resources, however some important distinctions can be drawn between the impact of conifers and broadleaves in the uplands and lowlands.
The factors that influence the water use of trees and how conifers and broadleaves are likely to affect water supplies in different parts of the UK are address summarized below.
To improve our ability to quantify the amount of water used by trees through a range of process, field-catchment and modelling studies.
Much of our knowledge of the impact of forestry on water supplies has been gained through a number of collaborative and external catchment studies. The main sites are:
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