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K-State Today

April 17, 2019

'It's all about water' lecture by Andrew Klein, Kansas Forest Service

Submitted by Maureen Olewnik

Andrew Klein

Andrew Klein, water quality forester at the Kansas Forest Service, will give this month's "It's all about water" lecture at noon Thursday, April 18, in 137 Waters Hall.

When compared to Kansas cropland and grazing land, the role of Kansas forest lands in food and water security is not very apparent. However, upon closer consideration and analysis, the vital role Kansas forestland plays in ensuring a safe, healthy and abundant supply of food and water becomes obvious.

For example, following the 1993 flood of the Kansas River valley, the extreme floodwaters scoured away an average of 9.4 acres of grassland and 18.2 acres of cropland per mile of the river. Whereas, forested areas had no loss, and in fact acted as sediment traps. This research, conducted by forestry faculty at Kansas State University, concluded that more than a quarter section of food-producing land was lost per ten miles of river.

This occurrence is repeated at all scales, from small streams to large rivers, with every high flow water event, most commonly in small, incremental changes with no dramatic flair to create large concern, though over time, the loss is still the same. In similar fashion, wind erosion across the great plains is nearly imperceptible, from the first day the settler's plow broke the sod up until now with policies and technologies meant to keep wind-driven soil loss at bay.

Spring 1935, including "Black Sunday," commanded the nation's attention when wind erosion regularly darkened the daylit sky as if it were night. This gave birth to the great rise of trees planted for windbreaks, helping to protect thousands of tons of topsoil blowing away. While other technologies today limit soil loss from wind erosion, windbreaks are proving to still be beneficial by limiting crop desiccation from dry, south winds thus having an overall positive increase in crop yield, found in a K-State forestry and agronomy study by Osorio, Barden and Ciampitti.

As these examples are the most obvious of the importance of great plains forestry, Kansas Forest Service foresters and staff have the great privilege of supporting and serving the individuals who own the 3.8 millions acres of rural forests across Kansas, as they manage and care for the forest lands that provide the innumerable ecosystem services that allow Kansans to have plenty of water to drink and food to eat.

The Kansas farm of 100 years ago heavily relied on the real, everyday, utilitarian, and economic value of their forests, and though those values today have shifted from utilitarian and merchantable, the value is still real and delivered every day through the form of clean water, wildlife habitat, improved crop yields, and a whole host of other ecosystem services that allow Kansas to be an agriculturally productive landscape.

Kansas Forest Service continues to help landowners gain this value, and improve upon it for themselves and all of Kansas.

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