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Water and plants

Water is vital to life and, in turn, biodiversity cleans, cycles and regulates the world’s water. Kew’s projects around the world aim to understand and conserve valuable plant diversity, to safeguard the vital services provided by natural vegetation.
Photo of Amazon rainforest
Rainforests are not only the world’s powerhouses for oxygen and water vapor production, they also bring climate stability.

Plants, climate change and water

Forests produce vast amounts of water vapour and are crucial in the regulation of local climate systems. They also change the reflectivity of the earth’s surface which, then affects wind and ocean currents and patterns of rainfall around the world.

Rainforests are also the world’s powerhouses for oxygen and water vapour production, bringing climate stability and ensuring that vital rainfall gets to areas that need it. Kew’s botanists are working all over the world to conserve rainforests, supporting this vital natural activity.

Our work in the southern fringe of the Amazon basin, sometimes referred to as the 'arc of deforestation', is helping to mitigate habitat loss caused by recent pressures from logging and soya farming. In the Cristalino State Park in Mato Grosso, one of the most biodiverse reserves in the region, Kew is assisting in the delivery of a management plan which will provide the region with the tools and knowledge to safeguard these rich areas of rainforest and support the sustainable use of natural resources. 

A giant water filter


Roots of red mangrove tree
Mangroves help to clean the water that enters the oceans.
Natural vegetation, such as forests, mangroves and wetlands also act as giant water filtration systems. For example, mangroves help to clean the water that enters the oceans and they protect land from coastal erosion and tsunamis, through causing sediment to accumulate around their roots. Because of these special properties, mangroves provide a natural solution for erosion control, land reclamation and soil stabilisation around tropical coastlines.

Mangroves provide natural 'nursery grounds' for many species of fish and other marine life too - supporting commercial fisheries throughout west Africa and tropical America. Again, by trapping sediments, mangroves reduce the muddiness (turbidity) of coastal waters, allowing for the development of healthy off-shore coral reefs, well known for their spectacular biological diversity - the marine equivalent of tropical rainforest!

High rates of productivity of mangrove forests and accumulation of peaty sediments may also help to reduce carbon emissions and provide an important sink for carbon.

Stabilising the water table


Huarango forest
Huarango forest in Peru

Natural vegetation stabilises water flow and helps to stop soil erosion, prevent high levels of salt (salination) and land degradation (desertification).

Kew’s restoration of the huarango tree (Prosopis limensis) and other native vegetation in Peru is helping to stabilise the water table. This is vital for supporting local communities and safeguarding habitats in the region as forest areas have provided local people with their livelihoods for at least 4,000 years. Without them, the lives of over 680,000 people would be affected.

These forests also support rare and threatened species, such as the slender-billed finch (Xenospingus concolor).

Adopt a seed for just £25

For £25 you can adopt a seed in Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, or you can save an entire plant species from £1,000.

Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership has successfully banked 10% of the world's wild plant species and we have set our sights on saving 25% by 2020.

Without plants there could be no life on earth and yet every day another four plant species face extinction.

Help Kew protect the future of the world's plant life.