Topic 3: The Hydrological Functions of Forest


Many forests occur in upland areas, and so knowing how water flows down a slope is important, as is a knowledge of what happens when trees on that slope are removed. Slope hydrology affects the actions that can be taken on slopes, with amount of care needed increasing as the slope angle increases. Water movement on slopes can trigger some of the geomorphological processes discussed in the final topic of this module, and so understanding how the movement occurs is important. That movement also plays an important part in determining where and when floods will occur, and how trees and forests interact with the magnitude and frequency of floods.

The amount of water that is available to a forest is dependent on the hydrological cycle. So an understanding of the basic components of this cycle is essential if a manager is to understand how forests and water interact. All plants need water to grow and forests utilize substantial amounts of water. A variety of processes are involved, and in this topic you will learn how our understanding of the close connections between the atmosphere and forests is growing. These processes occur at a range of scales, from small catchments to entire continents, and human activities are affecting all scales. For example, deforestation in the Amazon Basin is having an effect on the way that water is cycled across the whole Basin.

Video Lectures

3.3.1 Forests and water quantity

3.3.2 Forests and water quality

3.3.3 Forests and water biology


Textbook Reading:

  • Chapter 7 of the course text:
    Innes, J., & Tikina, A. (Eds.). (2014). Sustainable forest management: From principles to practice. London: Earthscan Publications. ISBN: 1844077241

Further Reading:

  • Wenner, E., Thompson, M., & Sanger, D. (n.d.). Water quality. Retrieved from
    Continuing with the Ashepoo-Combahee-Edisto (ACE) Basin of South Carolina case study, details of water quality can be found at the above link.
  • Bren, L. (2015). Forest hydrology and catchment management: An Australian perspective. Dordrecht: Springer. ISBN: 978-94-017-9336-0; ISBN: 978-94-017-9337-7 (eBook); DOI 10.1007/978-94-017-9337-7
  • Chang, M. (2006). Forest hydrology: An introduction to water and forests (2nd ed.). Boca Raton, FL: Taylor & Francis. ISBN-10: 0849353327; ISBN-13: 978-0849353321
  • Downs, P.W., & Gregory, K.J. (2004). River channel management: Towards sustainable catchment hydrosystems. London: Arnold. ISBN-10: 0340759690; ISBN-13: 978-0340759691
  • Lu, N., & Godt, J.W. (2013). Hillslope hydrology and stability. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN: 9781107021068
  • Naiman, R.J. (Ed.). (1992). Watershed management: Balancing sustainability and environmental change. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. ISBN 0-387-97790-2
  • Ritter, D.F., Kochel, R.C., & Miller, J.R. (2011). Process geomorphology (5th ed.). Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press. ISBN-10: 1577666690; ISBN-13: 978-1577666691


Module III - Topic 3: Self-test

Quiz Description:

The following self-test quiz is designed to check your understanding of important learning concepts for this topic. The quiz contains ten multiple choice questions. There is no time limit for you to take the quiz and you may attempt to take it as many times as you like. After you click the Submit button, you will see your Grade, number of Correct Answers, your answers, and the Answer Key for each question.

Quiz Instructions:

While you are taking the quiz, we advise you not referring to any course materials. After you Submit your answers, you may self-reflect the missing points, review relevant contents as necessary, and retake the quiz again until you get the full points

Answer the following questions to see how well you have learnt in this topic: