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UBC Okanagan professor suggests new approach to ‘limit disparities’ in forest-water research

South Okanagan Conservation Fund

A UBC Okanagan professor has suggested a “systematic approach” to study the effects human and natural disturbances have on the forest-water supply.

According to Adam Wei, a professor of earth, environmental and geographic sciences, healthy forests play a vital role in providing a clean, stable water supply.

However, he says forests are changing — in part because of human activity — and that’s having an impact on forests’ interaction with hydrological processes.

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Further, he says a systematic approach is needed to “limit disparities,” which will give a broader view on understanding how “numerous variables and their interactions” affect the water supply in forests.

“Implementing a systematic approach to all forest-water research will reduce the likelihood of procuring misleading assessment, which in turn will give us a better chance to solve some of the problems we created,” said Wei.

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The professor says he’s examining current forest-water research and management practices, and his goal is to identify gaps and propose a new approach that reflects the numerous variables at play in any given watershed.

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“We were looking at the impacts of deforestation on annual streamflow—and though we were able to draw the conclusion that deforestation increased it, the variations between studies were large, with increases between less than one per cent to nearly 600 per cent,” said Wei.

“There are so many variables that need to be taken into account, and not doing so can result in contradictory research conclusions,” said Wei, adding that the systematic approach will “give us a better chance to solve some of the problems we’ve created.”

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