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Water and forests

Do you know why forests are so important? Do you know what benefits forests provide to animals? How about the relationship between forests and water? Did you know that 80 percent of the water in the U.S. originates from forested headwater watersheds? Well, by participating in our exciting Ecohydrology activities you’ll learn about the water cycle and get to experience an Appalachian forest up close and personal while learning about the relationship between forests and water. 

Merit badge correlations:

Soil and Water Conservation

Echohydrology resources

Forests are Cultural Retreats (pdf)
Forests Provide Life’s Essentials (pdf)
Forests Regulate Our Climate (pdf)
Forests Support Planet Earth (pdf)
Forest Ecosystem Services Sign (pdf)
Location of Canopy Tour Activity(pdf)

The Water Cycle

Water is essential to all life! Water creates habitat for many animals and is necessary for survival. We have to do our part to keep it clean. Take a drink of water, how old do you think it is? It may have just come from a faucet but the water you’re holding in your hand is just as old as the Earth, roughly 4.5 billion years. It is the same water that the dinosaurs drank! The Earth doesn’t make any new water, it just gets recycled around and around. That is what the water cycle is! There are several parts to the water cycle but we are going to focus on evaporation, transpiration, condensation, precipitation, and collection.

Evaporation happens when the sun’s heat causes liquid water to turn into water vapor. You can see this happening at home when you boil pasta, the vapor (steam) coming off of the hot water is caused by evaporation!

Transpiration is similar to evaporation but only occurs via plants. When leaves get heated up from the sun, the plant will open tiny pores, called stomata, on the underside of their leaves. This changes the water in the leaves into water vapor and releases it into the atmosphere.

Condensation is the opposite of evaporation. Condensation is when cold air causes water vapor to change into liquid water. This causes cloud formation and dew on the grass in the morning.

Precipitation is condensation’s faithful friend! Excessive condensation causes clouds to become heavy, making it impossible for the air to hold all that water. This results in water (rain) falling from the sky.

Collection is another part of the water cycle that is responsible for collecting all the water that has fallen from the sky. This water ends up being stored in the ground, oceans, lakes, rivers, and streams. This is when the cycle starts all over again!

Forest Species Highlight

Species: Cerulean Warbler
Status: Vulnerable (one category away from endangered) It is one of the species of highest concern in the eastern US. It is on the 2016 State of North America’s Birds’ Watch List.
Habitat Forests
Food: Insects
Nesting: Builds nest with bark fibers, grass stems and hair bound together with spider web and placed on the limb of a deciduous tree in mid-to-upper canopy.
Notes: The Cerulean Warbler has been recorded at the Summit Bechtel Reserve using our acoustic monitors. Keep an eye out and you may see one. You can find more information on this species here.

Small, brightly colored blue bird, sitting on branch.

Cerulean Warbler.
Setophaga cerulea.
(Photo credit 1 Mdf via Wikimedia Commons).