Natural flood management : Upland catchments

Natural flood management is defined as the alteration, restoration or use of landscape features to mitigate the impact of flooding. This catchment-based approach is an evolving area of work in the uplands which is being developed by a range of partners including the Environment Agency and Natural England.

Wildfire is probably the greatest threat to peat. Areas of bare peat are unstable and subject to wind and water erosion. Eroded peat is washed into watercourses along with silt from any mineral base material that has become exposed as the peat is removed. This has implications for water quality on catchments as well as adding to the debris that can increase the frequency and impact of flood events.

Research into the effectiveness of various land management techniques including peat restoration is still in its infancy, but partners are looking at how this could be applied to upland catchments within the South Pennines. For example, Water@Leeds, part of the University of Leeds has applied a hydrological model to identify the impact of land management upon flow to a 5.7 kmĀ² headwater tributary for the River Calder. Re-vegetation modelling was conducted under a series of rainfall events. Different land cover regimes in different parts of the catchment have been evaluated with regards to impacts on flow. They have identified that the establishment of sphagnum adjacent to streams and watercourses could provide some potential for a modest reduction of flood peaks.

Download our report on ‘natural flood management’ solutions within the Colden Water Catchment

The enclosed video shows a realisation of Sphagnum regeneration in riparian buffer strips which could increase flood attenuation during a storm rainfall event.