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The Role of Woodlands in Water Management and Flood Prevention

Cawood

Yet again, the winter of 2015-2016 saw severe adverse weather causing damage and disruption to thousands of homes and businesses across the UK, in particular the north of England.


Over the last 50 years, the UK has become warmer with average temperatures in summer increasing by 1.4C and winter by 1.1C.


Precipitation in the UK is generally expected to increase by as much as 10% by 2100. Projected increases in rainfall are likely to increase the risk of flooding, particularly in winter.


Forests and woodlands have long been associated with an ability to reduce flood flows compared to other land uses. The four main ways that woodlands can help:
- The greater water use of trees
- The higher filtration rates of woodland soils reduces rapid surface run-off and flood generation
- The greater hydraulic roughness exerted by trees slows down flood flows
- The ability of trees to protect the soil from erosion.


The Woodland Trust looked at various natural water management techniques at Pontbren in Wales and concluded that planting tree belts across slopes on sheep farming land increased infiltration into the soil at more than 60 times the rate of neighbouring pastures, as well as reducing soil loss and providing shelter for livestock.


The higher water use of conifers and the related extra capacity of soils to absorb water offer scope for reducing flood runoff and higher infiltration rates of forest soils suggest that planting shelterbelts across the lower parts of grazed grassland sites could reduce peak flows by between 13 to 48%.


The increased hydraulic roughness associated with native floodplain woodland along a 2km grassland reach of the River Cary in Somerset was predicted to reduce water velocity by 50%.


Various studies indicate that floodplain and riparian woodland also have potential to delay significant flood flows, allowing more time to issue flood warnings and can also reduce flood risk in appropriate locations, such as towns and cities.


In a parliamentary debate on the floods, Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss spoke of the need to "put in place tree planting programmes that can both reduce flood risk and improve the environment at the same time".


The Scottish Government has announced a 235million Flood Risk Management plan involving 14 local strategies and 42 flood prevention schemes over the next five years, such as the natural flood management works currently under development near Selkirk in the Scottish Borders. Environment Minister Dr Aileen McLeod said: "Our plan is designed to improve the way we tackle the risk of flooding across the country - protective more homes, businesses, communities and livelihoods".


In addition to a range of native and productive species already available, we are now offering ready-mixed 'riverside packs' to provide an initial step towards flood-prevention planting.


Lowland Riverside Mix (180)

  • Goat Willow
  • Crab Apple
  • Rowan
  • Hawthorn
  • Blackthorn
  • Guelder Rose


Upland Stream Mix (180)

  • Hawthorn
  • Common Alder
  • Aspen
  • Grey Willow
  • Silver Birch
  • Rowan

Larger-scale plantations in the surrounding area will further emphasise the role of woodlands in water management and our Sales team will be happy to assist with any enquiries.

Please consult our Sales literature for further information.

20 January 2016 at 09:46 / Comment

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