The Effect of Vegetation Removal on a Watershed
The vegetation within a watershed has huge impacts on almost all aspects of the environment, including water resources. Removal of this vegetation cover can produce devastating impacts, rippling throughout the entire system.
Impacts of Vegetation Removal
- Alteration of Hydrologic Processes – The presence and control of vegetation is necessary to control the number of times and the type of events that can cause flooding within a watershed. Since vegetation acts as a natural reservoir to excess water, when it is removed, localised flooding intensity and frequency can increase causing further erosion and inundation.
- Erosion Control – Plants prevent soil erosion by binding soils together, enabling them to remain in place. Removal of vegetation, such as trees and shrubs, reduces this binding, leading to greater soil erosion during heavy rainfall, making way for subsequent wave erosion and reduction in water quality.
- Reduced Groundwater Storage Capacity – Trees and vegetation increase the amount of water that is infiltrating the ground and being used within the watershed. Without this vegetation, less water can be used to help decrease the impacts of drought events.
- Decline in Wildlife – In addition to the physical impacts, vegetation removal decreases the biodiversity of a watershed. Plant cover acts as a vital component of food webs, providing shelter and food for localised wildlife and other organisms that have adapted to their environment.
Ultimately, vegetation has an integral role in maintaining the vital processes within our watersheds. Removal of this vegetation can be detrimental to the hydrological cycle, wildlife and other surrounding resources, making it necessary to consider the repercussions of such changes before undertaking any vegetation removal.