Wildlife experts push natural flood solutions

'Hard' flood defenses can play their part but natural flood management solutions must also be considered when looking at how to protect ourselves from increasingly frequent and severe extreme weather events.

The UK’s regional Wildlife Trusts have made the call for more sustainable solutions to flood protection in a new report, Nature’s place for water, which advocates creating more wetlands, using sustainable drainage systems (SUDS) and setting aside flood plain land for water storage.

Working with nature, rather than against it, can bring many benefits, such as improved water quality and greater biodiversity, say the trusts.

For example, reedbeds act as water filters which improve water quality before it leaves the site but also provide the perfect habitat for species such as dragonflies, bittern and avocet.

Stephanie Hilborne, chief executive for The Wildlife Trusts, said: “The Wildlife Trusts are already working on the ground to restore our damaged landscape and this involves protecting ourselves from future flooding.

“Wetlands are valuable for wildlife but have added value to society as they store floodwater, provide recreation and tourism opportunities, improve water quality and can act as the focus of raising awareness of flooding issues in local communities.

“At the moment, funding for flood management schemes is extremely limited. As part of the implementation of Sir Michael Pitt’s report into the 2007 flooding, we think the Government must allocate sufficient resources to deliver natural solutions.

“Although we are pleased the Government has taken steps to update old water legislation – through the draft Floods and Water Bill – this must tally with promoting restoration and enhancement on a landscape scale.”

Nature’s Place for Water also provides case studies of how The Wildlife Trusts are working in partnership with landowners to restore the landscape and slow down water in the uplands, recreate wetland areas and reconnect rivers with natural floodplains in lowland areas to help store flood water.

Trusts are working in urban areas to create more green spaces which also absorb flood water. Better management of natural processes will also provide vital habitat for some of the UK’s most threatened species, as well as providing wildlife-rich open spaces for communities to enjoy.

Environment secretary, Hilary Benn MP, said: “The government is committed to protecting our wetlands and coastline, which are vital for wildlife and help to deal with flooding.

“With the increasing threat of climate change and flooding, wetlands are becoming more and more important, and I intend to publish a draft Floods and Water as soon as Parliamentary time allows.”

Sam Bond

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie