Nature-based solutions are techniques to restore or mimic natural functions in the environment, where the human systems we have imposed may be creating undesirable effects. They could be realised in a variety of scales and forms, such as improving soils, planting trees and hedges, and creating features to store and slow down water as it flows through the catchment. We explore below some of these techniques which are particularly relevant for the Culm.
The way we use the term nature-based solutions incorporates a few other terms you may have heard, including ‘working with natural processes’ and ‘natural flood management’.
In the context of this project, we are looking at the River Culm at a whole catchment scale and opportunities to implement nature-based solutions to help us adapt and be resilient to the effects of climate change. In particular, this may involve nature-based solutions which achieve some of the following functions:
- Slow the flow of water through the catchment so there is a smoother and longer response in river level to rainfall higher in the catchment, leading to less risk of flooding downstream
- Infiltrate more water into the ground so it doesn’t create excess runoff and is available within the catchment system over a much longer period of time (in the form of baseflow in the river, or groundwater) to reduce the risk of drought
- Create space for wildlife and people so people can connect with and enjoy a richer natural environment and to play a positive role in overcoming the current ecological crisis
There is lots of interest in this area, and it is increasing! There is greater recognition that the business as usual approach to managing flood risk is not fit for purpose, because of the increase in risk resulting from the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather we are seeing due to climate change. It’s also clear that delivering nature-based solutions has wider benefits and is cost-effective. In response to the floods in the UK in February 2020 there was a lot of media coverage where experts and politicians talked about opportunities for working with nature and at a catchment scale as part of the solution to flood events now and in the future due to climate change.