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Trees: The Solution to Flooding?

 

In a month where various parts of the UK have seen some of the worst flooding for decades the media has been saturated with requests for an improvement in flood defences for those areas of the country most affected.

The barriers and barricades that communities are crying out for may present a final obstacle to floodwaters which are rushing toward populated urban areas, but they do not address the initial issues. The way we adapt and treat our riverbeds and countryside has a direct effect upon their ability to deal with rainwater. Should we now be looking at cheaper; more natural prevention?

Government policy over the past decade has largely been in the widening and dredging of riverbeds to allow for more water to be carried; many now, though, are suggesting other alternatives. Former Environment Secretary Lord Rooker recently stated that planting more trees could help prevent such harsh and sudden flooding in vulnerable areas. ‘Rewilding’, as it sometimes called, is the process of returning domesticated land, like grazing pastures and farmland, back to a more natural state, which evidence claims, can help prevent flooding.

 

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Photo © Copyright wfmillar

Schemes that encourage ‘rewilding’ though have implications upon the land owners and farmers who are being encouraged to implement them. The organisation CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England) has called for more money to be spent on ‘green farming schemes’ using a higher percentage of the grants given to farmers as part of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy). In the news this week though, a Welsh Minister was criticised for diverting money away from the Direct Payments given to Farmers as part of the policy, and towards Rural Development projects, projects that could, in theory, include the re-forestation of areas. The criticism is that in reducing a source of income for these farmers he is reducing their competitiveness on the market.

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Photo by Mick Garratt

If planting trees and rewilding areas is to become a viable way of future flood prevention, how does it work, and how can it be achieved? We talk to a Professor in Physical Geography and representatives of the National Farmers Union and Woodland trust, two of the organisations involved in the issue to find out more:

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Q: Do trees prevent flooding?

A:“”This is a long researched and debated question, and the answer is not a simple yes or no. It would better to outline the potential impacts of vegetation on a river catchment:

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