Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Reforestation study shows trade-offs between water, carbon and timber

Panama canal watershed offers test bed for ecosystem services

More than 13,000 ships per year, carrying more than 284 million tons of cargo, transit the Panama Canal each year, generating roughly $1.8 billion dollars in toll fees for the Panama Canal Authority. Each time a ship passes through, more than 55 million gallons of water are used from Gatun Lake, which is also a source of water for the 2 million people living in the isthmus.

However, the advent of very large "super" cargo ships, now more than 20 percent of the ships at sea, has demanded change. The Panama Canal is being expanded to create channels and locks three times larger than at present, leaving the authority to consider how best to meet the increased demand for water. One proposed measure is the reforestation of the watershed.

To help planners and policy makers understand the effects of reforestation, ASU scientists Silvio Simonit and Charles Perrings studied the effects of reforestation on a 'bundle' of ecosystem services: dry-season water flows, carbon sequestration, timber and livestock production.

Published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), their study – "Bundling ecosystem services in the Panama Canal Watershed" – examines precipitation, topography, vegetation, and soil characteristics to model on-site and off-site effects of several reforestation options.

"The Panama Canal watershed is currently being reforested to protect the dry-season flows needed for canal operations. We find however that reforestation does not necessarily increase water supply, but does increase carbon sequestration and timber production," said Simonit. "Our research provides an insight into the importance of understanding the spatial distribution of the costs and benefits of jointly produced services." Simonit, a member of ASU's Ecoservices Group co-directed by Perrings, is part of a collaborative research partnership between ASU and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI). He is also a post-doctoral fellow on the National Science Foundation-funded research coordination network: Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Training Network (BESTNet).

Simonit and Perrings found that only 37 percent of the currently forested area positively impacts dry-season water flows, offering up roughly 37.2 million cubic meters of seasonal flow (equivalent to US $16.37 million in revenue to the Panama Canal Authority).

In parts of the watershed not currently under forest, they found that reforestation of areas with high precipitation rates, flat terrain, and soil types with high potential infiltration would enhance dry-season flows. However, they note that these conditions exist in less than 5 percent of watershed not currently under forest.

"Water supply is, however, only one amongst many ecosystem services affected by reforestation of the watershed," said Perrings, a professor in the School of Life Sciences in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "And the balance between services depends on the type of reforestation undertaken." Accordingly, the duo investigated two reforestation scenarios: natural forest regeneration and teak plantation.

"We found that if all existing grasslands were allowed to regenerate as natural forest, there would be a reduction in dry-season flows across the watershed of 8.4 percent, compared to 11.1 percent if reforestation took the form of teak plantations." In both cases, these conditions potentially pose a problem for the Panama Canal Authority. Even with water-saving advances in the new locks, the canal is expected to need 14 percent more water when the expansion takes full effect, and other options for securing dry-season flows are not cost-free. However, the Panama Canal Authority is not the only beneficiary of the watershed, and water is not the only ecosystem service supplied. "Both natural forest and teak plantations offer benefits in the form of carbon sequestration and timber products, among other things, and these should be weighed against any water losses," said Perrings.

According to their study, water losses from "natural" forest regeneration would be compensated by the value of carbon sequestration in 59.6 percent of the converted area at current carbon prices. On the other hand, reforestation of existing grassland with teak (under sustainable forest management) would generate gains sufficient to offset the hydrological losses in all converted areas, regardless of the value of carbon.

The authors note that their study does not consider the value of land cover as habitat for wild fauna and flora. However, they say their results could help canal planners prioritize reforestation efforts. Knowing what to plant and where can reduce the negative impact of forests on dry season water flows, while providing other important ecosystem services.

Margaret Coulombe | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

nachricht Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>