New publication on Natural Flood Management

Chris Short along with co-authors Lucy Clarke (NSS), Fabio Carnelli (University of Milan-Biocca), Chris Uttley and Brian Smith (both Environment Agency) have had their paper published in a special issue of the journal, Land Degradation and Development that focuses on Nature Based Solutions.

The paper is entitled ‘Capturing the multiple benefits associated with nature-based solutions: lessons from natural flood management project in the Cotswolds, UK’ and was a result of the partnership work between the University and the Stroud District Council funded project in the Frome valley

Chris Short

Land Degradation and Development is a highly rated journal for environmental sciences (8/242) and the number one journal for soil science (1/34). This further highlights the important work that has been conducted as part of the project and also is a great recognition of the achievements for all those involved.

A key part of the paper is the outlining of the range of benefits that a nature-based solutions approach provides, covering natural, economic and social areas.  Many traditional approaches tend to focus only on the reduction in flood risk and highlight concerns that natural flood management offers only small benefits.  The early findings from the Stroud project suggest that in some situations the benefits are much greater than at first thought and there are considerable benefits in terms of increased engagement and understand from the local community and landowners as well as in biodiversity.

The involvement of key Environment Agency staff in the paper shows the extent of enthusiasm they possess to develop the necessary evidence required to make informed decisions.  This paper will help the building and development of the knowledge base concerning the Working with Natural Processes platform.

The paper is currently available via open access on the journal website.

Article Abstract

Following severe flooding in 2007 a decision was taken in 2012 to explore nature-based solutions in 250 square-km river catchment in the southern Cotswolds in the UK. The project involves working with landowners to create in channel, riparian, field and woodland structures aimed at attenuating high flows or increasing infiltration rates to reduce flood risk. After three years it is clear that the threshold for effectiveness requires the implementation of measures throughout large areas of the upstream catchment. Early results suggest that social, as well as natural, capital has been enhanced through the project. What is clear is the beneficial role of working with multiple stakeholders to implement natural flood management on a catchment wide scale. In this sense the project has adopted a co-management approach which brings together the knowledges of hydrologists, ecologists, farmers, woodland owners and the local community to implement locally agreed solutions within a broader project framework. This paper will outline the initial findings and the governance structure within a theoretical framework of co-management and suggest how this type of framework is suitable for a range of nature-based solutions across Europe. However, the challenge remains in capturing the multiple-benefits that such projects offer as these are often missed through conventional approaches like cost-benefit analysis. The paper concludes by presented along with a potential way forward for a proof-of-concept for nature-based solutions.

An example of Natural Flood Management techniques