Forest ThreatNet

Volume 6, Issue 4 - October/November 2013

Forest Science Benefits Water Resources, Aids Developing Countries

Eastern Threat Center researchers and collaborators are expanding a web-based planning tool designed to project future water availability in the United States, Mexico, and Africa.

Rwanda_river_sediment.jpgThe Water Supply Stress Index (WaSSI) model predicts how climate, land use, and human population changes may impact forests’ ability to provide ecosystem services, including water supply, carbon sequestration, recreation, and wildlife habitat. Natural resource managers use WaSSI to visualize the effects of management options on ecosystem productivity and make informed decisions for short- and long-term strategies to sustain ecosystem services.

The enhanced online WaSSI tool features: 1) English and Spanish user guides, 2) expanded climate and land use change options, information, and future scenarios for eastern African countries Rwanda and Burundi; and 3) geographically relevant maps in user-friendly formats.

Right: In rural Rwanda, rivers are filled with sediment due to soil erosion from farming practices. Photo by Ge Sun.

Rwanda_WaSSI_group.jpg"Deforestation and climate change pose significant threats to water resources in the populous Rwanda region in spite of ongoing international conservation efforts," says Ge Sun, Eastern Threat Center research hydrologist and lead WaSSI developer. "Expanding the model’s capabilities in developing countries helps refine conservation strategies in areas responding to population growth, extreme weather, and other human influences impacting water resources."

Left: Center scientists Erika Cohen, Steve McNulty, and Ge Sun stand in a tea plantation outside Rwanda’s Nyungwe Forest National Park.

Created in 2005, WaSSI is a collaborative effort among federal agencies, universities, and non-governmental organizations. The multi-disciplinary WaSSI development team has conducted workshops in Mexico and Africa and continues to improve the tool’s application throughout the United States.

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