Trust calling for nature to be part of solution to flooding

The county’s largest nature conservation charity is calling for nature to be part of the solution following severe flooding which hit parts of Staffordshire in February.

Staffordshire Wildlife Trust has been carrying out work through a range/variety of projects to mitigate the effects of heavy flooding during the past 15 years.

The destructive floods due to the heavy rainfall from Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis – which have caused widespread disruption across the country – have highlighted the importance of protecting natural floodplains.

There have been scores of flood warnings in Staffordshire since Sunday. In Burton, the Environment Agency even issued a Severe Flood Warning with a threat to life as a result of the water levels coming from the River Trent overstretching flood defences in the town and surrounding areas.

The floods have also reiterated the importance of healthy functioning wetlands, such as the Trust’s Doxey Marshes reserve in Stafford and Croxall Lakes, in Alrewas, near Burton-on-Trent.

The Trust is keen to reiterate how important natural processes can be to tackling the effects of issues like flooding.

Staffordshire Wildlife Trust have been using Natural Flood Management (NFM) techniques for years to help reduce flood risk. NFM techniques delay the time water takes to flow downstream. By slowing the flow and holding water away from homes and businesses in new wetlands and complex habitats, communities are better protected from the risk of flooding.

Examples include slowing down fast water flows by anchoring/securing  trees across watercourses and by ‘roughing up’ the vegetation that buffer streams; storing water by creating new wetlands such as ponds, reed beds and washlands, increasing soil infiltration by reducing grazing pressure and reverting areas of arable land to grassland.

During 2007-10, the Trust pioneered an important national project ‘Farming Floodplains for the Future’ which aimed to understand how the farmed landscape can be viably managed in ways that reduce flood risk downstream, whilst enhancing the natural environment.

The project highlighted that landowners and land managers can be engaged in flood risk management and, with the right incentives, can be encouraged to implement flood-alleviation measures on the ground.

Currently, as well as other similar projects, the charity are leading on a project aiming to improve the quality of water within key catchments in Staffordshire and help to restore and create new habitats for wildlife thanks to a £320,000 grant.

The funding from the Water Environment Grant from the Environment Agency aims to improve the water quality within the Whiston Brook, Upper Sow and Scotch Brook catchments and lessen the impacts of flooding.

David Cadman, Senior Conservation Manager for Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, said: “We are finding there are less weather trends and climate change is resulting in extreme weather events, such as what we have seen recently from Storms Ciara and Dennis.

“The rain falling on hills and uplands has to go somewhere, so it flows overland and in rivers, to bottlenecks or low-lying areas downstream where it causes floods. Generally, it is our towns, cities and productive farmlands that are the casualty.

“The recent floods have highlighted the vulnerability of our current flood storage system, and it’s why we’re keen for authorities across Staffordshire to realise the role they have in mitigating its effects and how important natural processes can be in tackling the problem.

“Several councils have declared ‘climate emergencies ‘which is a starting point to protect areas against flooding – but more needs to be done.

“One of our key priorities is working towards a Nature Recovery Network which also feeds into what we are doing to tackle climate change and flooding.

“A successful network will enable improved connections for wildlife, allowing plants, animals  and water to move from place to place, enabling the natural world to adapt to change and bring wildlife closer to people.”