Wales: Reduce flood risk. Plant trees.

Did you know that around 357,000 properties in Wales – or about 1 in 6 buildings – are at risk of flooding? And that the natural environment, and trees in particular, can play a huge part in helping absorbing surface water run-off and thus reducing peak flooding flow?

Flooding in Ruthin caused misery to hundreds of families in November 2012. Could tree planting in strategic locations in the catchment area have reduced the peak water flow?

Flooding in Ruthin caused misery to hundreds of families in November 2012. Could tree planting in strategic locations in the catchment area have reduced the peak water flow?

That’s why Coed Cadw (the Woodland Trust in Wales) has launched a petition calling on the Welsh Government to reduce flood risk by supporting the planting of at least 10 million trees over the next 5 years, creating hedges, tree belts and wooded areas targeted where they will best help soak up rainfall and slow down water runoff. 

Many of these could be small areas rather than large ones and could be extremely useful in particular for the farmer, providing shelter for livestock from the sun and wind as well as the rain, and a supply of firewood in the future. Planting woodland like this can be a great way of making use of small areas of land to make the farm more efficient. 

How could this be achieved, I hear you ask?

The Welsh Government already has a grant scheme, Glastir Woodland Creation, which can offer grants for every hectare of new woodland planted. The scheme has been popular with farmers and other landowners and uptake is showing slow by steady growth. Coed Cadw is now calling on the Welsh Government to offer enhanced grant rates for the type of planting which will do most to reduce flood risk – for example planting shelter belts of trees alongside streams, or along the contours in upland areas.

The Pontbren Scheme in Powys provided an excellent example of what this approach might mean in practice. Here, ten farmers have worked together to plant over 120,000 trees and shrubs, to create or restore over ten miles of hedges and create numerous ponds. Now nearly 5% of the Pontbren land is woodland, pond and hedgerow. Crucially, this has been achieved with no loss of agricultural productivity. Indeed the aim was to reduce costs, make farming more sustainable and improve prospects for the next generation on these family farms.

This tree planting will also count towards the 100,000 hectare tree planting target the Welsh Government has already set, to soak up CO2 from the atmosphere.

Can anyone sign the petition?

Look out for our petition postcards!

Look out for our petition postcards!

The Welsh Government will want to see predominately Welsh voices supporting this petition, and so we are not specifically calling on people living outside Wales to sign it. However, if you have some connection with Wales, for example if you come from Wales but do not live here at present, and you have strong views on the subject you are still welcome to sign and please do share with all your Welsh friends, family and colleagues. We need your help to get this message across!

In addition, if you are planning on visiting the Royal Welsh Show, in Builth Wells Monday 22nd to Thursday 25th July please come and say ‘Hello’ to us at our stand (Avenue D3, Stand number 735), where you can also support our ‘Reduce Flooding. Plant Trees’ petition as well as:

  • receive your free native broadleaf tree to take home
  • check out our Bee Hive and pollinator trees
  • colour in a bee or butterfly and add it to our tree
  • talk to us about tree planting and grants available
  • be amazed by our soil erosion demonstration
  • discover all the other incredible things trees do for you

We’ll look forward to seeing you! In the meantime, keep up-to-date with the latest on this campaign by visiting Coed Cadw Facebook page and hit ‘like’ www.facebook.com/coedcadw or talk to us on Twitter @coedcadw.

Angharad Evans, Campaigns Officer, Coed Cadw (Woodland Trust in Wales)

About Kaye Brennan

Senior Campaigner (Policy & Advocacy) for the Woodland Trust and Administrator, 'Woodland Matters' blog
This entry was posted in Agriculture, Campaigning, Climate Change, Government Affairs, Planting, Wales, Woodland creation and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Wales: Reduce flood risk. Plant trees.

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  3. Angharad Evans says:

    Hi K
    Thank you for your comment and sorry for not responding earlier. People have been away on holiday, at shows and events etc.
    We don’t claim that tree planting can be a solution to all flooding or indeed that it would have definitely prevented the recent flooding in Ruthin, simply that planting native trees in the right places could reduce flood risk to thousands of homes across Wales.
    The Pontbren Report does specifically say: “The multi-scale nature of the field experiments allowed the water flow models to be scaled up to catchment level with greater accuracy than usually achieved. The first phase of research shows that sub-catchments dominated by agriculturally improved land have higher flood peaks than those with more natural landscapes, and the results suggest that if tree shelter belts are located in the right place on improved land, reductions in peak flow of around 40% may be achievable.”
    This in turn is referenced to Jackson B M, Wheater H S, McIntyre N R, Chell J, Francis O J, Frogbrook Z, Marshall M, Reynolds B and Solloway I (2008) The impact of upland land management on flooding: insights from a multiscale experimental and modelling programme. Journal of Flood Risk Management 1 (2008) 71–80.
    In an genuinely extreme weather event, some houses are bound to be flooded, no matter where flood defences are built or trees planted. What tree planting in the right places can do, however, is to reduce this risk, while also offering a whole raft of over benefits: shelter for livestock, protection of topsoil, a habitat for wildlife, CO2 absorption, a more attractive landscape conducive to healthy outdoor recreation and a renewable supply of timber and wood fuel. To me, that sounds like a good deal for Wales plc.
    Please read our latest blog about our campaign here https://wtcampaigns.wordpress.com/2013/09/09/ruthin-flooding-we-need-some-answers-and-heres-one-that-wont-break-the-bank/

  4. K Owen says:

    Can someone point me to some facts as to the way this blog alludes that planting trees is a solution to the type of flooding we saw in Rhuthin last year.

    Published papers about Pontbren specifically highlight its limitations above field scale storm events.

    Yes it provides a large ecological scale benefit and reduces soil erosion and thus nutrient loss from the system. But let’s not extrapolate and give people the impression that will have the same impact at a river catchment scale.

    To do this you are talking about reducing peak flood flows by over 20% which is not going to happen unless you change how much it rains. Last time I checked, except for an advert a few years ago, Wales sits as the first landfall of the Atlantic Gulf Stream and has lots of rain.

  5. Richard says:

    They build on Flood plains! that’s a clue that the ancient Britons left us (flood plains)! We need to look at the old ways of managing the land.
    Self sufficient communities living and working together, growing, coppicing, farming, self sustaining, jumpers for goal posts. Loverly

  6. Ash says:

    I don’t live in Wales but planting trees anywhere is good news: they absorb CO2, they help in flood defence, the timber can be utilised by humans as long as the humans remember that there’s a lot of wildlife using the trees too! Good luck with the campaign.

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