Trees and forests play a key role in producing the planet’s fresh water supply, by both creating and attracting clouds and by guiding rainwater into rivers, lakes and the underground water table. Restoring currently damaged lands with tree planting is the most effective way to secure a continual supply of water for drinking, agriculture, and all life.
Here are 4 major ways that trees manage the water cycle:
1. Trees add moisture to the air and create clouds - Trees draw water up from their roots all the way to their leaves where it becomes water vapor and is exhaled into the air. At the same time, tree leaves release friendly bacteria that trigger airborne water vapors to cluster together, forming clouds. These clouds attract higher clouds in the sky that would have otherwise passed over these regions, combining with them to bring additional rain to the forest. This process circulates water from deep underground, into the air, and back down to the earth.
2. Trees slow rainfall - Rain falls to the ground quickly. Without trees or other plants, rain rapidly runs into the rivers taking topsoil with it, reducing an area’s fertility while increasing flooding, landslides and erosion. When rain falls on a forest, the leaves and needles of the trees slow the rainfall and gently help the raindrops fall down to the forest floor.
3. Trees soak water into the ground - The rainfall on the forest floor soaks into the top layer of soil, which the trees have helped to make healthy and absorbent. The water captured by this spongy soil gradually filters down through channels created by the tree’s roots and soil organisms, into the underground waterways of the water table. From here gravity continues to draw the water through the earth until it emerges as a spring that feeds streams and rivers, or until it is drawn up from the ground through wells.
4. Trees keep rivers and streams cool and protected - As the rivers and streams make their way to the sea, the shade provided by the surrounding trees keeps the water from evaporating too quickly, allowing the rivers to flow more abundantly and enhancing the value of the river to all surrounding life. The roots of the trees also hold the riverbanks together, reducing erosion and keeping the integrity of the ecosystem intact
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