Today seems like the perfect day to think about the role snow and forests in our water cycle. Forests are super at taking melting snow and slowly incorporating that water into our underground aquifers.
The forests do this through the soil. The soil on the forest floor is kind of like a great, big sponge. It can soak up a lot of the melting snow and let it filter down to the underground aquifers.
The soil in a forest is less likely to be compacted than the soil in your yard or the local park. By being “fluffier” (that’s not the technical term) the forest soil can soak up more water because there’s more space in the soil.
The snow pack on top of the soil acts as insulation, allowing the soil to remain unfrozen and open to soaking up snow all winter long. This is a good thing. When the trees and other plants are active they pull up water through their roots and less water can get down to the underground aquifers. When the trees and plants are dormant, the water bypasses the tree roots and plans, and is allowed to make its way to our underground aquifers.
These aquifers are where people with wells, not on a municipal water system, get water for their homes. It’s also were many of the streams, rivers, and lakes get water throughout the year. Water from these underground aquifers slowly release water throughout the year, allowing Pennsylvania’s waterways to keep water even during the driest summer. Another bonus of groundwater aquifer water entering our local streams and waterways is it’s cooler. In the summer this cool water helps a lot of fish and other aquatic creatures survive by keeping the water temperatures down in streams and rivers.