About water, plants and biodiversity
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.
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, in turn, 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. Find out how Kew is helping to protect the biodiversity of the Amazon rainforest.
A giant water filter!
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. Find out more about red mangrove tree.
Stabilising the water table
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 which 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). Find out more about Kew's work in this region.
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