Forests could reduce flooding

Researchers for the Forestry Commission Wales say flood risk could be reduced using the nation's forests.

The climate change project FUTUREforest, run by Forestry Commission Wales, is experimenting with new ways in which the nation’s forests can help reduce downstream flooding, as well as locking away millions of tons of carbon dioxide.

The research is concentrating on soft engineering such as creating small woody debris dams, and new woodland to trap flood water in the uplands and slow its passage downstream.

The low cost, low impact technology could work alongside existing expensive, hard engineering such as barrages and flood barriers to protect people from the increased flood risk posed by climate change.

Forestry Commission Wales’ Mike Over said: “We have already begun to discover much about the way the woodlands of Europe can help us to combat climate change.

“The basic idea is that trees, undergrowth and dead wood increase the hydraulic ‘roughness’ of the floodplain, slowing down the passage of flood flows.

“The net effect is to delay and reduce the size of the flood peak, especially important as we begin to experience wetter winters and more intense rain storms.”

The methods are currently being trialled at a site near Abergavenny, where the effectiveness of the technology will be monitored.

FUTUREforest is a three year programme funded by the EU and the Welsh Assembly Government and delivered in Wales by Forestry Commission Wales. It aims to identify the threats, weaknesses and strengths of Europe’s forests resulting from climate change.

It also aims to improve and adapt regional and local forest management policies and practices focusing on water balance, soil, biodiversity, timber and non-timber forest products and air quality including carbon sequestration.

FUTUREforest will be showcasing its forests project at its international conference in Cardiff this week on November 18.

Alison Brown

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