Can woodland reduce flooding?

Forest Research commissioned to identify those areas in the Lake District National Park most at risk and determine if woodland creation might be the answer

News from Forest Research: September 2010

Map showing propensity of soils to generate rapid surface runoffThe Lake District National Park (LDNP) is prized for the beauty of its landscape but, despite appearing perfect, the high level of soil erosion in some parts has led to scarring of the landscape. Forest Research was commissioned to identify those areas most at risk and determine if woodland creation might be the answer.

Woodland management has a key role in maintaining a healthy environment and creating wildlife habitats. Planting woodland can help reduce soil erosion by providing shelter from the wind, improving soil strength and stability, and increasing the infiltration of water into the soil. This is particularly effective if planting is targeted at the most sensitive soils or in key locations to either intercept and soak up surface run-off from adjacent hill slopes or reconnect streams with floodplains. Woodland planting also brings important secondary benefits, including improvements to fisheries, enhanced nature conservation and landscape value, opportunities for recreation and carbon sequestration.

In the LDNP, erosion caused by over-grazing, land cultivation, drainage and human trampling has resulted in soil loss and excessive sedimentation of watercourses, leading to local increases in flood risk and damage to important habitats and several freshwater priority species. The Forestry Commission (FC) is working with other agencies to address these issues. As part of this work, Forest Research used geographic information system (GIS) techniques to create maps of the entire LDNP that identify land with vulnerable soils at risk from hill slope and stream bank erosion, where woodland creation has the potential to reduce diffuse pollution and improve water quality.

A report on this project and details of similar projects in Yorkshire and the Humber and South-West England are available .

This was work funded by Natural England, The Woodland Trust, Cumbrian Woodland and FC England.

For more information, contact Samantha Broadmeadow or Tom Nisbet.

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This and other news stories can be found in the September 2010 issue of FR News, our online newsletter.