Surface waters: The overlooked factor in the forestry climate mitigation debate (SURFER)

Climate change affects large parts of the world with rising temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns and extreme weather events. Norway is pursuing sustainable climate mitigation strategies and intensified forestry practices to increase biomass harvesting (e.g. nitrogen fertilization, intensified stem-only and/or whole-tree harvesting) are being used to rapidly transit to a «sustainable low emission society». The decision to intensify forest biomass use has led to debate in Norway, both scientifically and publicly. While the debate is still ongoing, other potential environmental concerns might have been overseen, in particular the potential effects of intensified forestry on surface waters. Norway's lakes and rivers deliver a number of invaluable services including drinking water, recreational opportunities and habitat for a wide range of species. However, surface waters are mostly absent from the current climate mitigation debate.

The interdisciplinary research project SURFER («Surface waters: The overlooked factor in the forestry climate mitigation debate») addresses various effects of intensified forestry practices on surface waters. Our goal is to provide guidance tools allowing water managers, decision makers and stakeholders to safeguard valuable surface water ecosystems in Norway.

We address forestry effects on surface waters on different levels:

  • Water policy, by investigating how intensified forestry for climate mitigation reconciles with current Norwegian laws and directives.
  • Trade-offs between intensified forestry for climate mitigation and surface water acidification.
  • Effects of intensified forestry on biogeochemical cycles, mobilization of pollutants and freshwater biodiversity on multiple spatial scales. 
  • The potential effects of forest fertilization on water quality in sensitive drinking water catchment in Norway.

The project is funded by The Research Council of Norway.

Involved partners:

Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA)

Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO)

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU)

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Last updated 03.01.2020