Articles | Volume 3, issue 4
31 Dec 1999
31 Dec 1999

Tropical forest hydrology and the role of the UNESCO International Hydrological Programme

M. Bonell

Abstract. The paper outlines a perspective on tropical forest hydrology within the context of an international hydrological programme. Experience in tropical forest hydrology research in North East Australia is a focal point for comparison with international activities elsewhere. The impacts of climate variability and change are considered briefly, as well as those of reforestation of degraded land on the land use hydrology, which requires a longer term vision and support of long term experimental catchments. Sadly, too few long term experimental catchments have been maintained in the humid tropics and there have been some significant closures even of these sites in recent years. Yet the case for long-term experiments is strengthened by the problematic issue of separating anthropogenic influences (such as land use change) on the hydrology of landscapes from the effects of climate variability at a time of escalation in population and related socio-economic pressures in the humid tropics. Particular emphasis is made of the need for greater consideration for the social and cultural dimensions of forest management within forest hydrology. Furthermore, scientists must be committed to incorporating ‘societal needs' in their planning of research projects, as well as in publicizing the applications of their results, within the framework of forest-land-water policy. Alarm is expressed at the extensive disregard for the application of existing forest hydrology ‘know how' in forest-land management manipulations associated with the humid tropics.