News, stories and reports from Forestry Commission Scotland and the National Forest Estate

Restoring woodlands to help reduce the risk of flooding

Healthy thriving forests can help Scotland to deal with some of the risks and challenges that a changing climate brings. The right type of trees and woodlands in the right places, alongside other natural measures, are vital to help avoid or alleviate the pressures of diffuse pollution, sedimentation, increased flood risk, increased temperature and bankside instability on the water environment that are predicted to arise from climate change.

It has been demonstrated that Natural Flood Management, alongside more traditional engineering measures, present viable options to alleviate the risk of flooding.

Our aim is to reinstate natural features of landscape such as floodplains and woodlands, so that flood water can be better stored and slowed down and downstream communities become more flood resilient.

Other benefits include improving the river habitat for wildlife and fisheries, sequestering and storing carbon in trees, helping local farms and improving the landscape.

student visit to eddleston

A great example of this is the work carried out in the Eddleston Water catchment near Peebles in the Scottish Borders to restore natural habitats, reduce the risk of flooding and benefit wildlife. The project is managed by Tweed Forum and funded by the Scottish Government.

aerial view of eddleston

Changes to current land management practices have been introduced in order to slow water flow from the hills, create floodwater storage areas and reconnect the river with its floodplain. Work has been undertaken on 17 separate farms including:

  • tree planting shiplaw planting 66 hectares of riparian woodland which will help increase rainfall interception, evapotranspiration, soil infiltration and slow overland flow;
  • planting over 70,000 native trees and erecting 16,000 metres of fencing;
  • 1.8km of river re-meandered to increase the length of the river, reduce the slope and speed of water flow and provide more space for flood waters, as well as creating new habitats and improving the landscape;
  • 89 ‘high flow restrictors’ installed that will encourage out of bank flow and hold back water in the headwaters;
  • 19 leaky ponds created (7,000 square metres). These wetland features have a good deal of ‘free board’ built in so that they will store water during intense rainfall events.

The area is being monitored so the results can be understood. A network of rain gauges, groundwater and river level gauges have been installed throughout the valley to collect data on how the changes affect river flows and flood frequencies.

Other monitoring programmes will reveal what changes occur to the river’s habitats and wildlife such as fish, aquatic invertebrates and vegetation.

The work has seen Eddleston Water’s classification status move from ‘bad’ to ‘poor’ to ‘moderate’.

The work has been co-ordinated by the Tweed Forum, whose members include: The Borders Forest Trust, Defra, Environment Agency, Federation of Border Angling Associations, Forestry Commission Scotland, National Farmers Union Scotland, Natural England, Northumberland County Council, Northumberland National Park,

Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Northumbrian Water, River Tweed Commission, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Scotland's Rural College, Scottish Borders Council, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Scottish Government, Scottish Land & Estates, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Water, Southern Uplands Partnership, Tweed Foundation and Visit Scotland.

Forestry and water Scotland initiative

The Forestry and Water Scotland initiative is a partnership led by Forestry Commission Scotland, SEPA, Scottish Government, Forest Research, the Forestry Contracting Association  and Confor.

As part of this initiative, we are producing guidance for land managers and contractors to help reduce the risk of diffuse pollution.

A ‘Keep Your Distance’ vehicle sticker is being produced that highlights the buffer areas according to the forests and  water guidelines, and a pocket guide detailing the do’s and don’ts to reduce the risk of diffuse pollution. This guidance is primarily aimed at contractors and site supervisors, the people on the ground doing the work. More comprehensive guidance aimed at forest planners and woodland officers will follow at a later stage.

Photo credits: The Tweed Forum.