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Managing floodplains using nature‐based solutions to support multiple ecosystem functions and services

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Abstract Floodplains include unique environments shaped over a long time horizon along rivers and smaller streams and formed by alluvial sediments. As floodplains are flat, often with highly fertile and well‐accessible land, they have become the intrinsic focus of human society—while providing a variety of goods and ecosystem services. Intensive land use of floodplains is degrading their natural values and significantly reducing their ecosystem functions and services. A significant part of these key services is related with the ability of floodplains to retain water and nutrients, which can be understood as a flood control and a water‐retention function. Although these ecosystems serve a number of other basic functions, the importance of floodplains as a place for water retention during extreme discharges caused by intense rainfall or snowmelt and the supply of water in times of drought are essential under conditions of global change. In order to increase the ability of floodplains to perform these functions, it is increasingly required to preserve the connectivity of rivers with surrounding floodplains and adapt human activities to maintain and restore river ecosystems. This article reviews the recent understanding of floodplain delineation, the most common causes of disturbance, the ecosystem functions being performed, discussing in turn the measures being considered to mitigate the frequency and magnitude of hydrologic extremes resulting from ongoing environmental changes. This article is categorized under: Water and Life > Conservation, Management, and Awareness Engineering Water > Planning Water
Comparison of floodplain areas defined on the basis of hydrological and pedological data along the Dřevnice River in the Czech Republic, in urban (a) and forest‐agricultural (b) landscape. Source: authors, based on data provided by T. G. Masaryk Water Research Institute and Research Institute for Soil and Water Conservation
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A meander chute cut‐off on the Orco River near San Benigno Canavese village, Italy (Source: Paolo Maschio, Politecnico di Torino)
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Significantly urbanized floodplain area (defined as the extent of flooding of the 100‐year return period) of Ljubljanica River and its tributaries in the eastern part of Ljubljana, Slovenia (Source: Geoportal ARSO, 2020)
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Danube floodplain forest near the Gabčíkovo waterworks, Slovakia (Source: Jaroslav Jankovič)
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(a) Floodplain area covering the entire valley floor in the case of a near‐natural landscape (the Berounka River floodplain, Czech Republic); (b) urban floodplain limited by the presence of levees (the Vltava River floodplain in České Budějovice, Czech Republic). Source: authors
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Engineering Water > Planning Water
Water and Life > Conservation, Management, and Awareness

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