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How Trees Prevent Flooding

Trees and Water - a partnership made in heaven

I have often been told that I am tree-batty, but did you know that trees can help us in so many ways? I was watching the terrible destruction in North East England the other day on telly and I thought 'I wish they had more trees'. Maybe I do think about trees too much!

We all know that tree roots can grow in an extensive fibrous mat, growing from thick roots to very small ones only a few mm in diameter. It is not the big roots which make the difference, but the small, feeding roots which are in such abundance that they bind the soil together. When the rain comes, this network can keep soils together and prevent run-off thereby slowing the flow of water into the rivers. If trees are planted intelligently, then they can diffuse a period of high rainfall over a period of days and so prevent flash flooding.

But trees can also reduce overall volume of water. In some areas, there can simply be too much rainfall for the downstream human activity to go unaffected and this is where water-hungry trees can be really helpful. They soak up this excess water and so reduce the problems. Anything fast growing is normally water hungry, but especially conifers and cedars.

But don't trees acidify the waterways? Planting along waterways is known as riparian planting, and it is true that conifers can acidify water. However, the Forestry Commission does not allow this to happen anymore and riparian planting of broadleaved trees is encouraged as a way to control water flow and increase biodiversity without the problems of acidification.

In fact, intelligent planting of trees can save council hundreds of thousands of pounds in flood damage! So if you live in an area affected by floods and you love your trees then do your county a favour and put pressure on your council to increase their riparian planting!

05 July 2012 at 09:52 / Comment

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