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Can forests buffer negative impacts of land-use and climate changes on water ecosystem services? The case of a Brazilian megalopolis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Paula Ferreira, Arnout van Soesbergen, Mark Mulligan, Marcos Freitas, Mariana M. Vale

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)248-258
Number of pages11
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date9 May 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 May 2019

King's Authors


While the role of land-use conversion on water quality is reasonably understood, its role on water quantity is controversial. Climate change is also expected to impact water availability. Here we explore the interplay of hydrology, land-use change and climate change in one of the most populous urban areas in the world. We examined the potential of forests to buffer the negative impacts of land-use and climate changes on water-related ecosystem services in Tietê Basin, Brazil, which supplies water to the São Paulo megalopolis. We modelled six hydrological parameters using the WaterWorld Policy Support System, simulating the current baseline and six future scenarios (with different land-use and climate changes). Our results corroborate the general trend that increased forest cover improves water quality. Our modelling also predicts that increased forest cover increases water quantity in the southern part of the basin. The effects of climate change are observed mainly in urban areas, with a reduction in water quality. Because urban areas are not eligible for reforestation, they cannot benefit from its buffering effect on climate change. The increase in water availability is the greatest benefit of reforestation as a strategy to improve water-related ecosystem services in the region. Reforestation, however, will not suffice to restore all hydrological parameters in the basin, and additional sustainable agricultural practices are needed to mitigate impacts on water quality.

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