Natural Flood Management Research in collaboration with Leeds University

Gary Chan, MSc student in Sustainability and Consultancy at the University of Leeds, undertook research for us for his dissertation in Summer 2016.

Steve Maslen, Head of Environment, put forward a suggested project scope to Leeds University in early Spring 2016. This project was then adopted by Gary who then developed the project objectives and delivery tasks. The final title of his research was ‘Assessing the integration of ecosystem services into decision-making for implementing Natural Flood Management measures.’

Gary undertook a 10-week placement with us in our Saltaire office, which was supported by the JBA Trust. Steve Rose, Steve Maslen and Rachelle Ngai acted as his project mentors, guiding him and offering their expertise when required.

Project aims

The research project aimed to assess how ecosystem services are incorporated into decision-making when short-listing options to implement natural flood management (NFM) measures during the formal project appraisal process for proposed flood risk management schemes.

It ran in parallel with the national Research and Development (R&D) Working with Natural Processes (WWNP) Evidence Base Project that JBA are leading on for the Environment Agency.

So why is the project important?

When presenting his findings, Gary identified why the project is so relevant in the current climate.

“There has been an increase in major flood events over recent decades. This is due in part to climate change effects and is expected to increase in the coming years. Many have also recognised that traditional hard engineered approaches such as high flood walls are not enough.”

The ‘Pitt Review: Learning Lessons from the 2007 floods’ noted:

“It is now widely accepted that flood and coastal risk cannot be managed by simply building ever bigger and harder defences. Softer approaches, such as flood storage through working with natural processes and rural land-use options can contribute to a more sustainable approach.”

“The adoption of natural processes does not replace traditional defences, but can complement them and increase their capacity to deal with climate change. The measures are aimed to slow water and temporarily store it in areas where it is less likely to be a problem.”

Gary further adds, “We must recognise that working with natural processes not only manages flood risk but it can also bring multiple benefits such as new habitats, enhancing biodiversity, carbon capture, sediment reduction and improved water quality.”

His research explains this further and highlights how we account for this through the concept of ecosystem services. Gary believes that integrating ecosystem services into the decision making process can contribute towards building a business case for the much wider implementation of natural flood management in future flood risk management schemes.

Want to know more?

Click here to view Gary’s research overview poster.

You can also contact Steve Rose, our expert in Working with Natural Processes, for more information on the national R&D project and our work in Natural Flood Management. Why not visit our Catchment and River Restoration web pages too?

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