75% of the Global Fresh Water Supply is Created by Forests
Water. The divine essence of all life. That perfect medium for the birth and support of every living creature and all biology on the planet from microscopic algae and the eye of a hummingbird, to a monumental redwood showing the passing centuries like the rings of Saturn within its moist and forest scented bark.
Water. Cascading over mountains, hidden beneath the crust of the earth, echoing through canyons, dripping within the darkest of caves, pounding shores into sand, sizzling against molten lava vents in the chilled depths of the ocean floor. Rushing over boulders - challenging the salmon to wrestle against the flow in an earnest act of procreative instinct.
Water. Resting within craters reflecting a perfect autumn sky, blowing from a whale’s spout, whirling in the eye of a hurricane. Moving mountains one molecule at a time. Delighting, destroying, nurturing, propelling, and continuing on always in a constant state of change.
“Between earth and earth's atmosphere, the amount of water remains constant; there is never a drop more, never a drop less. This is a story of circular infinity, of a planet birthing itself.” - Linda Hogan
Water is the source of all life as we know it – the Alpha and the Omega for all of creation. And Forest Watersheds create 75% of the freshwater on the planet. The interplay of forest ecosystems and the cycling and availability of fresh water is one of the most powerful and least commonly understood life-giving systems that exists. The ability of forests to attract clouds, pull water vapor from out at sea towards them, release friendly bacteria from the stomata in their leaves that causes water molecules to form together into droplets that then fall as rain – these are all processes that enable forests to supply themselves with fresh water.
Forest watersheds are not static recipients passively depending on a separate hydrologic cycle to bring them rain. They are dynamic tremendous forces of movement in an interdependent dance with a vast water cycle that is drawn to them and managed by them - a grand supplier of freshwater for most of terrestrial life on earth. The biotic pumps of the global freshwater cycle. The great purifiers and hydrators of the planet.
“The river moves from land to water to land, in and out of organisms, reminding us what native peoples have never forgotten: that you cannot separate the land from the water, or the people from the land.”
- Lynn Noel, Voyages: Canada's Heritage Rivers
Forests then cycle that water supply by slowing the rain down on their trillions of leaves so that by the time it hits the forest floor it can soak into the healthy soil, root and microbial systems and be purified and channeled deep into the earth, refreshing the water table so that in times of less water the deep tap roots of older, taller trees can access that water and miraculously run it up their bodies and out their canopies through evapotranspiration that again creates moisture for the health of the overall forest. When you plant trees, you are planting water.
Water and trees grow together in mysterious and magnificent ways. Yes, trees need water – their lives depend on it – they ‘use it’ to grow. But in the brilliance of nature’s extreme and constant reciprocity, trees also channel water – both through their roots and through their leaves. They drink in and exhale and percolate. They slow the rain down on their endless leaves so that it can be absorbed by the land and guided into streams. They create and attract clouds. They purify. They receive and they give. And this creates the freshwater cycle. The cycling of water on the macro and micro levels. Trees relationship with water is vital to all living terrestrial creatures – including humans. It is a miracle of Nature.
"To understand water is to understand the cosmos, the marvels of nature, and life itself. " - Masaru Emoto in "The Hidden Messages in Water"
We have lost half of the world's forest ecosystems in the last 10,000 years - that's 3 trillion trees. This has also reduced by half the essential ecological infrastructure provided by trees and forests – clean air, fertile soil, healthy food, wildlife habitat and innumerable resources. This loss is witnessed in the transformation of many areas of the world that were once lush oasis into drylands and desserts. We witness and experience this grand disruption in the increasing occurrence and intensification of floods, droughts and wildfires. What we call drought in Australia, Africa and California is in fact the process of desertification unfolding. Strategic tree planting as the anchor for ecosystem restoration reverses this trend. It is the pathway for regeneration of both the Earth, and our humanity.
The undercurrent of truth running through terrestrial vitality is that trees create flow. Planting a trillion trees will re-hydrate our planet – creating significantly more rain, waterfalls, streams, rivers, lakes, and clouds - recharging water tables around the world. This opens hardened land to become a receptacle and holder of life-giving water. This enables and enhances all vital planetary systems. This is a non-negotiable for life to sustain itself. We hold the ability to create this level of planetary transformation in our hands. We have the knowledge. We have the ability to collect the seeds of our future, plant and nurture them, and grow our way into a flourishing culture of restorers.
This is the most important commitment of our lives. And it is easy, inspiring and either super affordable or even free to start planting trees right now. These projects are all community driven, with both the people and land benefiting from your contributions, ensuring long term care and high survival rates for the trees. Thank you for your attention. Thank you for taking action. Visit the home page to join the movement!
Take a deeper dive into the relationship between forests and freshwater with the following resources:
The most profound example of this system is the Amazon Rainforest. Watch the following mind-blowing TED talk about the unexpected ways that water flows between the forests, oceans and atmosphere. "The Amazon River is like a heart, pumping water from the seas through it, and up into the atmosphere through 600 billion trees, which act like lungs. Clouds form, rain falls, and the forest thrives. In a lyrical talk, Antonio Donato Nobre talks us through the interconnected systems of this region, and how they provide environmental services to the entire world. A parable for the extraordinary symphony that is nature."
“Scientists have known since the late 1970s that the Amazon rainforest - the world’s largest, at 5.5 million square kilometers - makes its own storms. More recent research reveals that half or more of the rainfall over continental interiors comes from plants cycling water from soil into the atmosphere, where powerful wind currents can transport it to distant places. Agricultural regions as diverse as the U.S. Midwest, the Nile Valley, and India, as well as major cities such as São Paulo, get much of their rain from these forest-driven “flying rivers.” It’s not an exaggeration to say that a large fraction of humanity’s diet is owing, at least in part, to forest-driven rainfall.” From ‘Trees Could Change the Climate More Than Scientists Thought’ by Gabriel Popkin - https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/10/how-forests-affect-climate-change/572770/
“The role of tropical forests in regulating global climate and weather patterns – especially rainfall and temperature – is of fundamental importance not only to poor rural farmers in the tropics, but to farmers and policymakers as distant from the tropics as the Midwestern United States and Texas, China and Mongolia, Canada, Siberia, northern Europe, and Scandinavia. Tropical forests return up to 90 percent of the rainfall they receive to the atmosphere, and winds passing through tropical forests produce twice the rainfall as winds passing across open lands. At regional scales, this makes forests vitally important to agriculture.” From the report ‘Ecosystem Services from Tropical Forests: Review of Current Science’ by Katrina Brandon - https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2622749
“The Hydrologic Cycle is also referred to as the water cycle. The water cycle is the continuous movement and form of water on the surface, below the surface or above in our atmosphere. The water on earth is in constant movement, from one reservoir to another, such as from river to ocean, or from the ocean to the atmosphere, by the physical processes of evaporation, condensation, precipitation, infiltration, surface runoff, and subsurface flow. Within this movement, the water will change forms from Liquid, or Solid (Ice), to Vapor. The importance of vegetation on the Hydrologic cycle is multi-faceted. Vegetation helps the water cycle by being the canopy interception by collecting the rainwater before the rain falls directly to the ground and, then eventually it will evaporate back into the atmosphere instead of just going to the ground to become erosive run-off and then facilitate the creation of rain.” – From 'The Hydrologic Cycle' by Giuseppe Tallarico - https://worldpermacultureassociation.com/the-hydrologic-cycle/
“Because natural processes are so entwined, every step toward regeneration brings multiple co-benefits: more plants mean more photosynthesis, which means more carbon pulled from the atmosphere into the soil, where it adds fertility; every 1% increase in soil organic carbon represents an additional 250,000 liters per hectare (of water) that can be held on the land; the more water held on the land, the greater resilience to floods and drought.” - From ‘There is Another Story to Tell About Climate Change and It Starts with Water’ by Judith Schwartz - https://worldpermacultureassociation.com/theres-another-story-to-tell-about-climate-change-and-it-starts-with-water/
“Healthy forests are the most effective land cover in reducing sediments in water. Forests improve water quality from when the first raindrops hit by preventing some sedimentation and erosion. But there are many other mechanisms through which forests also improve water quality. At broad scales, pollutants are removed from all water that trees restore to the atmosphere through transpiration. Forests also have many pathways for slowing water flow, increasing infiltration by soils. Pollution is removed from water flowing overland and into groundwater as part of the infiltration process, with vegetation, leaf litter, microbes and soils all removing or biochemically transforming contaminants. Recent research is also showing that higher biodiversity leads to more efficient ecosystem services. For example, streams flowing from, and through, tropical forests clean pollutants better than less biodiverse streams.” From the report ‘Ecosystem Services from Tropical Forests' by Katrina Brandon - https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2622749
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