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A new focus of proposed research by CIFOR that was endorsed by its Board late in the year would investigate the interrelationship of water resources and forests. Many countries have development strategies for maximising access to water, but what do they mean in relation to forests and other natural resources, and to rural poverty and local well-being? What are the best strategies to promote effective land use and management of water resources at the landscape level?
Water flows across political boundaries and interconnects with systems in the atmosphere and below the ground: at local, catchment and river basin levels. These complex hydrological processes require an integrated approach to water management, but this is difficult because how these processes interact is not well understood, especially in tropical areas.
This new research initiative would investigate the role that forests play in maintaining water quality and quantity, and the effects on forest-related water development programmes of ecological disturbance, socioeconomic changes, equity in access and other issues. Important research questions would build upon many of CIFORs ongoing projects.