The role of trees and woodland in reducing flood risk in Cumbria

flood risk plantingAfter the severe flooding in Cumbria in December 2015, Forest Research has been working with partners to design and target woodland measures to help protect ‘communities at risk’, as part of the Cumbria Flood Action Plan.

We have used a number of Woodland for Water datasets to create more-targeted opportunity maps to inform local discussions about where woodland creation could best contribute to reducing flood risk.

Working with local communities
Forestry Commission England recently held two workshops in Cumbria to present the evidence on how trees reduce flooding. Trees can help by:

  • reducing the volume of flood water at source by increasing evaporation;
  • slowing the rate of runoff from the land by increasing soil infiltration;
  • delaying the flood peak by increasing floodplain ‘roughness’;
  • maintaining downstream channel capacity by protecting soils and reducing siltation.

The workshops also considered local opportunities for woodland creation and management to help reduce flooding for affected communities.

Tom Nisbet presented the science of woodlands and flood risk management and Samantha Broadmeadow shared the Woodland for Water opportunity maps. The results of case studies such as our Slowing the Flow project at Pickering in North Yorkshire were used as practical examples of how woodland measures can be integrated with other actions to better protect communities at risk from flooding. Experience and lessons learned were shared and questions answered. As a result of positive feedback, Forestry Commission England plans to hold another four workshops tailored to local communities within each of the Cumbria Flood Action Plan pilot catchments.