Water, Climate Change, and Forests: Watershed Stewardship for a Changing Climate

From the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, this report describes the critical role of forests in protecting watersheds from the impacts of climate change. The report details the pressures on forests, including growing human populations and problems posed by climate change, from warmer temperatures to invasive species. Climate adaptation strategies are discussed for forest and watershed management, many in the context of hydrological impacts, engagement and collaboration, and ecosystem restoration. The principles and actions presented suggest how land and water managers can incorporate climate change considerations into watershed management in the short- and long-term.  

The first two sections detail the importance of forests to the Nation’s water resources, and summarize observed and projected effects of climate change on the hydrologic cycle and forested watersheds. Following sections outline a feasible framework for response - adaptive strategies in terms of thinking (assessments/planning), collaborating, and acting. The steps discussed for addressing climate change impacts on forested watersheds follow this planning cycle: 

  • Acquire Information About Watershed Resources at Multiple Scales
  • Expand Use and Application of New Technologies
  • Use the National Forest System and Other Public Lands as Learning Laboratories
  • Identify Water Uses and Needs
  • Assess and Integrate the Uncertainty of Hydrologic Change
  • Conduct Watershed Vulnerability Assessments

Specific practices/adaptation strategies to maintain and improve watershed resilience are described for: Aquatic Ecosystems, Energy Development, Fire and Fuels, Infrastructure, Natural Disaster Response, Recreation, Soil, Vegetation, Water Use and Diversions.  


Publication Date: June 2010

Authors or Affiliated Users:

  • Michael J. Furniss
  • Brian P. Staab
  • Sherry Hazelhurst
  • Caty F. Clifton
  • Ken B. Roby
  • Bonnie L. Ilhardt
  • Elizabeth B. Larry
  • Albert H. Todd
  • Leslie M. Reid
  • Sarah J. Hines
  • Karen A. Bennett
  • Charlie H. Luce
  • Pamela J. Edwards

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Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Planning guides


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