- In Cities as well as the Countryside!

The countryside, with its floodplains and forests, has always acted as a defence against flooding by soaking up water and either storing it or releasing it gradually to slow down its descent into rivers or settlements. The removal of vegetation such as wetlands, bogs, hedgerows and woodlands makes the countryside less absorbent while compacted or drained fields, dredged riverbeds, concrete roads and car parks all increase the rate that water flows through the landscape and potentially into people's homes.

The latest climate change projections indicate that flooding is likely to increase in the future as we face warmer, drier summers, wetter winters, more frequent and intense wind and rain storms and continuing sea level rise. Extensive flooding costs the economy millions and can be devastating to communities. Although we do have constructed flood defences in places, these are very costly and have been criticised for sometimes simply shifting the problem downstream.

 

Several organisations have been working with nature to provide alternative flood defences - that also store carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere.

Bog Flowers]The Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust's Pumlumon Living Landscape project shows that appropriate land management - such as rewetting bogs - can restore nature's ability to act as a natural sponge and a carbon sink. Sphagnum moss, the building blocks of blanket bog, holds 20 times its own weight of water whilst broadleaved woodland serves both as a natural umbrella, a sponge and a remover of carbon dioxide through photosynthesis. The Pumlumon project aims to store 41.9 billion litres of water  - and 2.5 million tonnes of carbon - by restoration of more than 3,000 hectares of blanket bog and appropriate land management.

Tree Flood Defense

Nature-inspired approaches are also being used by organisations such as RSPB (Lake Vyrnwy) and the Woodland Trust (Pontbren). The Pontbren project planted tree belts across upland farms which, along with providing homes for wildlife and shelter for livestock, increased infiltration of water into the soil to more than 60 times that of neighbouring sheep grazed pasture without tree belts. Modelled across the catchment area, the project estimates that this may reduce peak flows of water by as much as 40% providing clear evidence that planting trees on upland farms can reduce flood risk downstream.

 

Nature inspired solutions are not just reserved for the countryside. The same principles of using trees and vegetation to absorb water and to slow down water flow are also being used in our towns and cities.  

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The Greener Grangetown project aims to better manage rainwater in Grangetown, Cardiff. After consultation with the local community the project will use natural solutions such as the removal of impermeable surfaces, tree planting, creation of rain gardens and planted areas to catch, clean and divert rainwater directly into the River Taff instead of pumping it 8 miles through the Vale of Glamorgan to the sea. As well as reducing flood risk this will make Grangetown a greener and cleaner place to live. The project is part funded by NRW, the local authority and also Dwr Cymru under its Rainscape programme. Dwr Cymru aims to invest around £80m in Rainscape projects by 2020. There are currently other Rainscape projects in Caldicot, Llanelli and Newport.

 

Get Involved!

No matter how small an area, there are usually ways that you can increase its ability to capture both water and carbon. See our ideas and toolkits for transforming areas and making space for nature.


The Woodland Trust offers free tree packs to schools and community groups with advice about what species to plant and how to look after them. There are also grants available for individuals and groups to plant trees or improve woodlands and trained advisors to talk you through the process.

WT - Natural Calendar 
If you enjoy taking note of the passing seasons then you can also help organizations like the Woodland Trust understand more about our changing climate through becoming a Nature's Calendar recorder. 


You don't need to be an expert but by recording sightings of things that happen with the changing seasons -such as the first blackberry you see in autumn or the first open leaf that you spot in spring- you can help provide up to the minute information across Wales about the impacts of climate change on our nature and wildlife.