Do forests protect watersheds? A short summary of current thinking on the links between land use, hydrological functions of watersheds and local livelihoods in Vietnam
This booklet is based on the presentations and discussions at the above workshop, which was held in Hanoi on 14 May 2002 and attended by about 50 research scientists, representatives of government departments and donors. Around 45 of the participants were Vietnamese. The workshop was held as part of the ongoing Sida-funded research project Land Use and Sustainable Livelihoods in Upland Vietnam, which aims to provide practical guidance to natural resource policy-makers in their efforts to reduce the
economic inequality between the uplands and lowlands of Vietnam.
From the four examples in the study, it is shown that hydrological evidence linking forests and watershed protection functions is not yet well developed either in Vietnam or internationally. Although we cannot generalise for all watersheds under all conditions, our
current “best-bet” knowledge is that:
· Forests do not increase run-off – in fact forests usually reduce run-off
· Forests may or may not regulate seasonal water flows
· Forests are no better than other vegetation types for reducing erosion
· Forests are not as important as climate in controlling floods, but can help in small watersheds.