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Assessing the value of floodplain landuses

We secured a grant from the Valuing Nature programme earlier this year to look at the natural capital and ecosystem services delivered by semi-natural habitats in floodplains. 70 % of floodplains are currently in some form of intensive agriculture (arable, horticulture or intensive grazing) and 42 % of rivers in England are disconnected from their floodplains. This means that nearly half of floodplains are unable to flood, and those that do are unable to absorb as much water, recycle nutrients and sequester carbon.

If more of our floodplains were floodplain meadows, or wet woodland there would be greater benefits to the wider public. These habitats deliver pollination services, carbon sequestration, water storage, biodiversity and nutrient absorption, all whilst still being part of a farmed system, compared to floodplain in arable use, which can release silt, carbon, water, nutrients and chemicals into our river systems, adding to costs further downstream for flood alleviation and water purification.

A recent grant from CEH as part of the Valuing Nature Partnership has allowed the Floodplain Meadows Partnership to write a paper summarising these issues and making policy recommendations. Those recommendations are:

  • Reconnection of rivers with their floodplains to allow them to flood and drain naturally;
  • A shift of land use on floodplains from intensive agricultural production to semi-natural habitats that can help to slow, store and filter water;
  • grassland management that promotes carbon and nutrient capture and enhances biodiversity, supporting pollinating insects and biological control agents of pests and diseases.

It is hoped that these recommendations will be used to help inform post-Brexit agri-environment schemes, where the Government focus is currently on delivery of public goods for public money.

 

The full report can be downloaded here