Integrating forest and water management offers economic and conservational benefits, including mitigation of the impact of climate change. The ForestForWater project demonstrated how European forestry practice can contribute, in particular, to the achievement of the goals of the EU Water Framework Directive.
The Swedish project, ‘ForestForWater – Demonstration of opportunities on forest land to support the implementation of the Water Framework Directive’ (LIFE03 ENV/S/000601), selected pilot watersheds that represented different geographical zones (Mediterranean, Alpine, Atlantic, southern and northern Boreal landscapes) as well as institutional management structures. The partner countries – France, Sweden and the UK – co-operated to increase their knowledge in this area.
The project succeeded in demonstrating the benefits of a range of forest management techniques on the freshwater environment. For example, the use of riparian shade was shown to reduce thermal stress on freshwater organisms and planting floodplains with woodland species led to the alleviation of downstream flood risks.
The results of the project’s actions were monitored under new systems established at the pilot sites that examine longer term impacts of different forest activities on water quality. Forestry was identified as the main human disturbance in all of the areas examined, and as a result measures were introduced to combat this impact. The systems now in place are expected to continue monitoring the activities of the project partners and are a lasting legacy of the project.
Analysis of existing approaches to forestry was also carried out at the pilot sites and across the national institutions. These identified the benefit of incorporating forestry interests into the planning and control of water basin management systems. The project also examined ways of strengthening the participatory process from a forestry perspective by establishing stakeholder groups at all levels. This action helps to ensure an inclusive, relevant set of outcomes.
Though participatory approaches are time consuming, they generate demonstrable added value and long-term benefits. Participation was recognised as essential during the development of large-scale integrated river basin plans that cross regional or national borders.
Finally, the project demonstrated the socio-economic benefits of forest management for the restoration of water habitats. Forestry companies that focus solely on maximising timber production fail to take advantage of other opportunities such as angling and tourism. The experiences of the LIFE project have been collated in a report that will be used to inform river basin management handbook materials. The results of the project are also featured in training programmes that form part of the After LIFE communication plan.
Read the Layman report