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Role of forested land for natural flood management in the UK: A review

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Abstract Natural flood management (NFM) is the use of natural processes and environments to mitigate flood risk by reducing and delaying peak flood. This review introduces the concept and history of NFM and looks at the current state of research into the potential for using different types of woodland to fulfill the aims of NFM. Four woodland types (catchment, cross‐slope, floodplain, and riparian) are discussed with reference to studies carried out, mainly in the United Kingdom, to determine the relative merits of each type and their effectiveness in mitigating flood risk. We then discuss how trees interact with the hydrological cycle, along with a discussion of modeling methods which seek to determine the amount of water intercepted by different types of forest cover. We find that while there is some evidence that carefully planned and managed woodland can mitigate flood risk, the published data for this evidence base is somewhat sparse. This may be either due to the long timescales needed for comprehensive studies or the relative infancy of the research on NFM. More research needs to be carried out in each of the four woodland types, especially in the UK, as policy makers are increasingly looking towards nature based solutions to mitigate the potential impacts of climate change. The concept of a combined canopy/hydrological model which can be scaled from stand to watershed level and incorporate different types of woodland is suggested as it would be beneficial in guiding woodland creation policy in the future, both at the local and regional scales. This article is categorized under: Science of Water > Water Extremes Water and Life > Conservation, Management, and Awareness
How trees use water. Adapted from an original illustration published in Forestry Commission Information Note “Water use by Trees” with the permission of Forest Research. © Crown Copyright
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A schematic representation of the different types of woodlands as defined by the Environment Agency
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Water and Life > Conservation, Management, and Awareness
Science of Water > Water Extremes

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