Forested lands provide 50% of the US water supply, the Nation’s highest quality trout fisheries, and the best remaining habitats for more than one hundred endangered aquatic species. The Forest Service (FS) has a long legacy of providing the science to help resource managers understand, protect and sustain these valuable resources and made a priority of the study of watersheds.
- Our network of Experimental Forests & Ranges has been the foundation of research on watershed and ecosystem processes for over 100 years. Long term studies at these sites provided early information on the effects of forest management on water resources, how to grow and utilize timber without damaging the soil, providing the foundation for developing “best management practices” for protecting stream-side buffer zones, forest road design and construction standards.
- Our research findings have changed the basic understanding and management of watersheds, for example, discovering the role that natural disturbance events play in keeping streams clean and providing fish habitat.
- New technologies such 3-D land mapping and improved watershed scale modeling approaches developed by FS scientist define and predict watershed conditions in a changing climate. These studies integrate with research on the response of fish population to changing habitat conditions. New tools will help managers set priorities for protecting and restoring watersheds, and evaluate the effectiveness of new management methods and strategies.
As times change, FS is building and expanding upon our long-term research to provide new knowledge and tools to assist land managers and partners ensure forest and rangelands continue to provide for the need of the US for clean water, healthy fish populations, and healthy forests.