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Water (Project 4.1)

Forested catchments produce much of Australia's water. Maintenance of the quality and quantity of this water is, therefore, of considerable importance to the community. Changes to forest cover have the potential to alter catchment water balance, and there are community fears that forestry operations such as harvesting and fertilisation can pose a threat to water quality, stream morphology and aquatic habitat. While there has been a significant body of research into these issues in recent years, there remains a series of knowledge gaps. It is crucial that the relationships between biophysical processes and forest management practices are well understood and best-practice management is developed.


The overall aim of this project was an improved ability to predict water quantity and quality responses to a range of forestry practices.

The project worked to close key research gaps in current forest-based hydrologic analyses. The research program built largely on the strengths of long-term experimental sites and explicit connection with industry management practices. Not all combinations of species/environment/management practices can be addressed experimentally. Consequently, the aim of this project was to gain insights into biophysical processes and responses at sites where rigorous results were most likely, and to use these insights to develop portable modelling techniques for general application.

The principal research areas of the water project were:

  • water yield from native forests and plantations under a range of environments and management options
  • development of best management practices to protect water quality, stream morphology and aquatic habitats from harvesting and control burning
  • commercial forestry in the riparian zones of farms for environmental and economic benefits.

Outputs of the water project were:

  • improved capability to model the effect of forestry activities on catchment water balances and stream health
  • greater knowledge of silvicultural practices on water use to inform community debate
  • best management practices for maintenance of water quality and quantity values.

Research activities were coordinated by Dr Patrick Lane, and research was conducted at:

  • University of Melbourne
  • Forest Products Commission, Western Australia
  • Forest Practices Authority, Tasmania
  • Forestry Tasmania
  • CSIRO/Ensis
  • University of Tasmania­.


Feikema PM , Beverly CR, Morris JD, Collopy JJ, Baker TG, Lane PNJ (2007) Predicting the impacts of plantations on catchment water balances using the 3PG forest growth model. In 'MODSIM 2007 International Congress on Modelling and Simulation'. (Eds. L Oxley, D Kulasiri) Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand, December 2007, Christchurch, NZ. pp.2237-2243. ISBN: 978-0-9758400-4-7. Access this paper from the Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand website.