9 January 2016

Forest Restoration can Alleviate Flooding

Native Forest Restoration in the Uplands can Alleviate Flooding in the Lowlands

We are desperately in need of wise flood prevention measures that work, to quote the Chinese Emperor Yu, 3,160 years ago, whose ancient proverb reminds us

“To protect your rivers, first protect your mountains”

The Woodland League, a not for profit NGO, sympathise with affected citizens nationwide and call for a common sense reaction to solving the recurring flooding crisis.

Before we spend millions of euros on downstream knee jerk hard engineering false solutions, especially before we make any decision to go dredging rivers, which will only send the problem further downstream as many other EU countries have discovered at great cost. Those countries who adopted dredging strategies are now reversing their ill judged decisions. We also face the very real prospect of heavy EU fines and penalties which could add further to the cost of short term quick fixes.

Andrew St Ledger, the League PRO says “We can all agree there is a need now to find wise long term solutions to fix flooding, one part of this solution is to work with nature, farmers, and local communities to restore our degraded uplands, rivers, streams, wetlands and flood plains so that they can perform their natural regulatory function to their optimum capacity”.

There is an urgency now to pay heed to recent UK scientific research in comparable upland situations to Ireland. The UK Pontbren project, conducted by Bangor university in Wales found that water was absorbed 67 times faster by native woodland than on grass. The Pontbren project of 1000 ha was a farmer led approach to sustainable farming in the uplands.

To date they have planted 12,000 native trees, 5% of the area, reinstated 26.5km of hedgerow and created ponds covering 5.4 acres as well as restoring wetlands which act as natural reservoirs. The research found that if all the farmers in the catchment followed their example, flooding downstream would reduce by 29%. Full reforestation would reduce the flooding by 50% or more.

The development of an alien tree farming forestry model in Ireland’s uplands with its non native shallow rooted trees, soil compaction by clear-felling with heavy machines, deep vertical drains, and hundreds of kilometres of heavy duty roads, has also compounded the flooding issue. Sending large amounts of water and silt down hill and ripping the river and stream banks along the way adding to the flooding problems in the lowlands.

St Ledger went on to say

“Rain is landing on soil with no sponge ability in tree plantations, it is then channelled into deep vertical drains and cascading at speed headlong down our hills and mountains, flooding the low lands”.

“Why is it with all the advisors and consultants available to Ministers for advice, that this no brainer, low cost basic solution on our doorstep continues to be overlooked”.

“The Pontbren trials provide us with a sustainable and cost effective blueprint for restoring our fragile uplands using natural methods, ensuring a reduction in flooding, a future for small farmers and wild life, with knock on benefits for local communities and is in the national interest”.

The Woodland League are actively seeking cross party support for this initiative having already engaged with a number of interested TD’s and Senators who recognise the merit in this common sense natural solution.

This article was published in The Irish Examiner:

Planting native trees can help battle to control flooding

The Woodland League

Dedicated to restoring the relationship between people and their native woodlands