Natural Flood Management; have your say

Until 15 January 2020, iCASP will be carrying out a survey to better understand people’s views on measures to avoid flooding, in particular, Natural Flood Management (NFM).

We invite anybody who is interested or involved in NFM to take part and share your views. We want to hear about, and better understand, how you feel about NFM. You may have been a volunteer installing NFM interventions, or own land where NFM measures have been installed, you may have walked past some when out and about, or you may not have encountered them at all – whatever your experience, we would like to hear what you think about them.

Examples of different NFM interventions Image credits (L-R): Richard Grayson, Richard Grayson, Jenny Armstrong, Mark Trigg, Susan Ballard

Over the last few years there have been a wide range of NFM measures implemented across the UK. Here in Yorkshire we have several pilot schemes being trialled and monitored to build up our understanding of the processes, benefits and considerations when installing these kinds of flood measures.

Understanding how people perceive NFM, their levels of knowledge of different interventions and their views on NFM allows us to ensure this is considered when designing future schemes so that they are more acceptable and the benefits are more clearly articulated.

The survey should take no more than 15 minutes to complete and your answers will be stored completely anonymously in line with GDPR requirements. Click here to access and complete our NFM survey.

 

Links to articles about some NFM schemes in the region:

Tree planting project trialled to tackle floods

Natural flood management for Yorkshire Dales communities

Pickering leaky dams flood prevention scheme ‘a success’

Major natural flood management project underway in Yorkshire

 

Going global with invasive non native species

On 28 October, Dr Alison Dunn, lead academic on iCASP’s Invasive Non Native Species (INNS) project gave a keynote presentation at the International Conference on Aquatic Invasive Species about the growing problem of invasives, and the work she is doing to address this.

Screen grabs of tweets from Dr Alison Dunn’s keynote presentation at the International Conference on Aquatic Invasive Species 2019

Because of the growing threat that some invasive species pose to our natural environment, and even in some cases to human health, there’s a real need to stop or dramatically slow their spread. One example of a particularly nasty invasive species is Giant Hogweed , a plant that can cause severe burns on human skin  resulting for some people in long-term skin sensitivity problems; the current cost to UK local authorities of tackling this particular plant species is over £365,000 a year. It is this growing problem and cost of dealing with invasive species that is the driver for much of Dr Dunn’s work.

Her iCASP project is breaking new ground by working with local authorities to improve their biosecurity policies and procedures, and embedding this into their routine activities to slow the spread of invasive species. The project draws upon learning from another of her projects working with several organisations in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales to ensure that learning, resources, and successful ways of improving biosecurity are shared.

Figure from the recent Environmental Audit Committee’s report on Invasive Species showing the growing cost of controlling invasive species

Local organisations and authorities are not the only people whose awareness and actions Dr Dunn is seeking to change; she gave evidence to the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry into Invasive Species earlier this year stressing the importance of improved and robust biosecurity:

“Check Clean Dry and Be Plant Wise are flagship campaigns by DEFRA and we have found that where people are aware of those campaigns, their biosecurity behaviour does change, but awareness is not very high”

The report of the inquiry was published last week and biosecurity features strongly in the recommendations from the Committee to the Government.  We now need to wait for the government’s response and whether changes are made to policy and legislation longer term.

The INNS iCASP project runs for another year and seeks to develop guidance and biosecurity protocols that will be embedded within local authorities across the Yorkshire region and will ultimately be made available to be used by organisations worldwide to help slow the spread of INNS.

Payment for Outcomes: visiting farms to determine possible sites for Natural Flood Management

iCASP is working on a project to integrate Natural Flood Management (NFM) into the National Trust’s ‘Payment for Outcomes’ trial. The Trust are undertaking the trial on some of their tenanted farms working with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust. Their work will help to inform Defra’s new Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS). It seeks to pay for farmers for the environmental outcomes they achieve on land they farm.

The iCASP project is focused on identifying opportunities for NFM measures and discussing with farmers how NFM could fit into a payment scheme that would make business sense for them. These valuable insights will help inform future payment schemes which focus on payment for outcomes.

iCASP produced maps of each farm showing the  parcels of land tenanted from the National Trust. The land parcels were overlaid on to maps, produced from SCIMAP. These maps show areas of risk related to diffuse pollution (e.g., fine grained sediment) and the connectivity of overland flow of water to the main channel network – together, these maps show which areas of land could benefit from further management. This allows us to generate ‘opportunity maps’ that indicate where NFM interventions might best be sited; for example installation of a leaky dam in a particular location might work well to slow peak flows of water or buffer strips to help reduce sediment (soil) being washed away.

Maps of a land parcel showing the key diffuse pollution risk areas and overland water flows (left hand map shows areas of erosion risk with red areas showing higher risk than orange and yellow areas, the right hand map shows hydrological connectivity with the darkest blue showing the greatest areas of connectivity to the main channel network). These maps are produced for each National Trust land parcel and taken on to site to allow them to be annotated with notes based on what is observed on the ground and while talking the tenant farmers

Ground-truthing of the map outputs is crucial to understand the farm in more detail to ensure NFM opportunities are placed in the correct locations. For example, smaller flow pathways that connect sediment and water to the main channels, may not have been picked up during the modelling due to the resolution of data used. Speaking to the land owner is vital at this point to understand how the land is currently used and managed and where there are current issues (e.g., waterlogged soil). This is another layer of information that can be used to ground-truth the modelling output and also verify the locations of potential NFM interventions.

We have recently visited five farms taking part in the trial to do this ground-truthing. This has meant we’ve been able to annotate all the maps to verify the modelling output. This has allowed us to come up with a better understanding of which NFM interventions could be used and their locations on the farms.

A photo of the field shown in the maps above. This is looking towards where the highest levels of overland water flow were indicated by the mapping, however locating NFM measures below this was not felt to be worthwhile in this particular case because the ground below was very boggy and was already acting to slow the flow of water downhill by retaining it.

The next step in this process will be to meet with all the farmers and other organisations involved in the project to share the knowledge gained by the process and produce final maps of the suggested interventions. Meeting with the farmers will also provide valuable feedback on the opinions of NFM, which interventions the farmers would be willing to install on their land and how these efforts might be incorporated into a payment scheme that pays the farmer for the environmental benefits they produce by installing NFM. iCASP will feed the key points of these discussions to DEFRA to inform the development of ELMS as well as share this useful insight with other projects looking at payment for outcomes (e.g. the Horizon 2020 CONSOLE project iCASP is part of). The National Trust will use the insights evaluate how NFM could be incorporated into their Payment for Outcomes trial.

 

Modelling to support optimal location of flood measures

This October is the 3rd anniversary of the Calderdale Flood Action Plan (FAP) . You can find out more about who is involved with delivering the plan, the various pieces of work being undertaken and get an idea of the costs and the benefits of work already carried out through infographics produced to highlight key actions and work so far

Infographic about Natural Flood Management work as part of the Calderdale Flood Action Plan (from https://eyeoncalderdale.com/fap-3rd-anniversary)

iCASP academics been involved with work in Calderdale that aims to reduce the flow of water through the catchment using Natural Flood Management (NFM) measures. The iCASP project has been using a rain-fall run-off model, SD-TOPMODEL, to help with identifying which areas of 3 sub-catchments of the Upper Calder River contribute most to peak flows. Understanding which parts of a catchment are contributing most to flooding in the lower valley make it easier to assess the impact of locating an NFM measure in one place rather than another and allow prioritisation of those measures that will have greatest benefits.

The model produces maps like the one below that shows the speed at which water is flowing and uses rainfall data from nearby weather stations and high resolution terrain data. This modelling is combined with on-the-ground visits and meetings with landowners, land managers and flood risk managers to get the fullest picture of what is going on across the landscape when it rains.

SD-TOPMODEL output showing the baseline modelling for the Jumble Hole catchment

The modelling and site visits improve understanding of what contributions existing landscape features already make;  for example hedges and walls can help slow the flow of water across the land and by acting as a temporary store help reduce the peak flows of water. These aspects can then be included to further improve the representation of these features in the model. The modelling and site visits also allow experts to identify where in the landscape new NFM features can be located to further slow and store water.

At a meeting in November the modelling results will be presented to all the partners working on flood measures in Calderdale. From these results a handbook will be created to assist land owners in targeting appropriate NFM interventions, and to further understand how the whole catchment responds during flood events.

Working with large land owners

Last week iCASP facilitated a meeting with the National Trust and Water@Leeds to identify future opportunities for collaborative working.

The National Trust (NT) are one of the largest land owners in the UK, and around 40% of land in the UK drains into a watercourse which runs through a NT property. The Trust recognises it has a responsibility to restore environments to healthy, beautiful and well-functioning status as well as ensuring their ongoing management methods and practices maintain that status.  They’re not just seeking to help store carbon, reduce flooding and restore soil health, but do this whilst also ensuring the land they own remains beneficial to wildlife and people.

Staff from Water@Leeds and the National Trust meeting to discuss priorities, expertise and future ways of working (photo credit: Jenny Armstrong)

Collaborating with Water@Leeds will enable the Trust to feed into the latest research and development activities which in turn could increase the implementation of evidence-based management decisions across their properties. Collaborating with the Trust provides opportunities for researchers to trial innovative new activities in real world settings and access a wealth of information from those who live on and manage the land. iCASP can help to facilitate this collaboration by identifying the priorities of the National Trust and translating Water@Leeds research to help answer key questions to the challenges faced.

The meeting considered several ways of working together; from PhD studentships to research grants and fellowships. Possible collaborations were identified across a range of topics including water quality, habitat management and biodiversity enhancement, natural flood management and carbon management. These themes cut across a variety of catchments where both the Trust and University of Leeds researchers work.

The National Trust are already project partners on the iCASP Payment for Outcomes project that is seeking to include natural flood management (NFM) in the Trust’s Payment for Outcomes trial. In turn the Trust’s trial can help inform Defra’s new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) and how a range of different measures to improve environmental outcomes can be included and paid for.  The iCASP project focuses on several of the Trust’s tenanted farms and aims to identify which NFM interventions are most suited to the farms and surrounding land, and pay farmers and land managers for the work they undertake to achieve these improvements.

Photos from visits to National Trust farms to identify sites for Natural Flood Management interventions as part of our Payment for Outcomes project (photo credit from L-R: Ben Rabb, Tom Willis, Poppy Leeder, Ben Rabb)

We hope to build on the partnership working already underway and facilitate more collaboration in the future to benefit the beautiful places owned and managed by the Trust for the benefit of us all.

 

Additional links that may be of interest:

National Trust Riverlands project

POSTnote on Natural Flood Management

Improving forecasting for surface water flooding

With much of the map of England lit up with flood warnings and alerts this morning, this serves as a timely reminder about the importance of ongoing work into flood forecasting.

Screen grab of the Gov.UK Flood Information Service

 

The recent iCASP project on Enhanced Surface Water Flood Forecasts (ESWFF) set out to try to enhance the forecasts that are issued to help decision making in the run up to, and during, a flood event. A wide range of people utilise these flood forecasts including the emergency services, flood planners in local authorities, water utilities and the Environment Agency.

The culmination of iCASP’s ESWFF project was a mock incident response workshop in April that used data from a previous flood incident to see if enhanced forecasts would lead to different decision making. Involving many different flood responders in the workshop gave useful insight into the value placed on different kinds of information, how decision makers use different pieces of information and how the information could be further improved for clarity and ease of use.

Tweets issued to warn the public about surface water flooding

 

Several recommendations came out of the project, including how to better support local authorities in their responses to surface water flooding, and further development and testing of user-centric surface water forecast information.

The executive summary, final report and a flyer about the project can all be freely downloaded:

Executive Summary (of final report)

Final Report

Flyer about the project

Getting research in to Parliament

On the iCASP office wall, amongst lists of current and developing projects, year planners and maps there is a brightly coloured poster about getting research in to parliament.  As iCASP is all about achieving impact from existing environmental science we do a range of activities to ensure iCASP’s work gets into parliament. Below is a summary of some of this activity

A new webpage on the iCASP website details some of our responses to various consultations and inquiries. These vary from the local to the national level and they draw on science right across the iCASP remit.  And it isn’t just written evidence. Recently Alison Dunn, who leads our Invasive Non Native Species project, was invited to attend and give oral evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee as part of their Invasive Species inquiry

Environmental Audit Committee oral evidence session as part of the Invasive Species inquiry

Written and oral evidence to inquiries and consultation isn’t the only way that iCASP and the people that work on iCASP projects get research in to parliament.

Another way of getting our work in front of MP’s and their researchers is talking to them directly.  Joe Holden Director of iCASP, was recently asked to meet with Alex Sobel MP and brief him on iCASP and the projects we are funding. iCASP has also met with MPs Rishi Sunak and Julian Sturdy out in the Yorkshire Dales to tell them about iCASP.

3 tweets showing direct engagement with MPs: Joe Holden meeting with Alex Sobel,  and Angela Smith speaking at Confluence 2018  and Alex Sobel at Confluence 2019 having both mingled with attendees in the morning break

Every year we invite an MP to give a key note talk at our annual Confluence event, and then plan the agenda to time their arrival to coincide with a break allowing them to talk to a range of people working across different iCASP projects. The Yorkshire catchment that iCASP covers is large so there are a lot of MP’s constituencies meaning the MPs we engage with will have different priorities depending upon constituency location. Many are involved with different select committees, have Ministerial roles or are in the shadow cabinet, or are involved with different APPGs based upon their personal interests. We had Angela Smith MP attend Confluence in 2018 and Alex Sobel joined us this year. This allowed us to engage with them as constituency MPs and also as members of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Environmental Audit Committees respectively.

Networking is another way that our researchers can get iCASP research in to parliament. This might be as simple as attending an event organised for parliamentarians such as the recent IUCN Peatlands meeting in the houses of parliament.

The work of researchers working on iCASP projects gets used in many different ways, one recent example is the report from ONS looking at the natural capital of UK peatlands which drew on the work of several iCASP researchers. Researchers can also act as external reviewers of articles, reports and papers having an input that way. iCASP director Joe Holden was an external reviewer for the recent POSTnote on Wildfires.

And finally, in these days of social media its very easy to get information in front of MPs directly by just responding to their questions, for example Holly Lynch MP recently asked the government about future plans for managing peatland responsibly, we were able to point her in the direction of our optimal peatland restoration work.

This is just a snapshot of some of the activities we’ve been involved with to get research into parliament; it demonstrates the diversity of opportunities available and demonstrates the need for researchers to continually engage with parliament at different levels to ensure their understanding and knowledge is based on the most up to date science available. We have a busy Autumn of consultation responses planned, but it’s worth the effort knowing that this will be influencing policy making and future policies that affect the catchment and all who live here.

Improving future flood resilience

iCASP will be involved with the new ‘Yorkshire Future Flood Resilience Pathfinder’ project led by City of York Council which won Government funding last week.

The project involves several iCASP partners including City of York Council and the Environment Agency and will encourage greater uptake of property flood resilience (PFR) measures across Yorkshire. It will draw upon existing projects and initiatives tackling flooding in the region and share best practice and provide training.

One of the more exciting aspects of the project will be the creation of a physical demonstration site in the form of a community hub and learning lab at Wilberforce College, Hull. The learning lab will have exhibits, physical models and demonstration PFR measures used to deliver training and awareness raising to a broad range of other projects, communities and people.

The Living with Water Partnership, who recently started an iCASP project on telemetry integration, will co-develop the learning lab and continue its management and delivery beyond the end of the pathfinder funding.

iCASP’s role in this pathfinder project will be to review the current awareness and adoption of PFR measures in communities and businesses across Yorkshire, and also across local authorities, planners and other professionals who promote, procure, design and deliver PFR interventions. This will take place at the outset of the pathfinder in September 2019, and then be revisited towards the end of the project to understand the reach and impact the pathfinder project and its interventions have had, and to make recommendations for future work and opportunities to develop the programme further.

Other links of interest:

UK Government press release on new funding for flood resilience

Hull City Council news item on learning lab

Living with Water news item

Natural flood management in the media

This week has seen the 12th anniversary of the 2007 floods which impacted across swathes of the UK and affected villages, towns and cities across Yorkshire. It is timely to look at some of the measures put in place since then to alleviate flooding in the future. Natural flood management (NFM) has had some coverage in the media recently with both the BBC and ITV reporting stories that cover activities iCASP projects are supporting.

Countryfile recently visited Hardcastle Crags near to Hebden Bridge to find out more about leaky dams and how they will help tackle flooding in the future. The NFM work in Hardcastle is as a direct result of the 2015 Boxing Day floods. iCASP has been working with the Environment Agency, JBA and the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust, amongst others, on monitoring and measuring the range of benefits of NFM measures such as the leaky dams seen in the programme. The main focus of iCASP’s work has been developing approaches to measure whether or not the dams work to deliver flood alleviation. A future focus of the work will be to help quantify the additional benefits of these types of interventions – such as more varied habitat for wildlife, improved water quality and enhanced well-being for visitors to the area – which will be vital for making the business case for future natural flood management measures.  Find out more about the Hardcastle Crags leaky dams from Countryfile

Images of leaky dams and volunteers by Slow The Flow Calderdale

Natural flood management encompasses a range of different measures, not just leaky dams. An ITV news report on tree planting in Hebden Bridge mentioned how this work will draw upon the expertise of iCASP later in the year to understand the impact of trees already planted. iCASP will be working on the project to help identify how features, such as trees and hedges, can absorb heavy rainfall and contribute to alleviating flooding, as well as investigating how different soil types and land covers also contribute to flooding. Decisions on where trees and hedges should be planted in the future, for optimal benefit, will be informed by a rainfall-runoff model developed at the University of Leeds.  Read the ITV report

These NFM activities rely upon a range of different partners getting involved. A diagram showing the range of different partner organisations, drawing from the voluntary, charitable, private, public and regulatory sectors, has been developed to give a flavour of the interactions in these activities in the Calderdale area.  View the interactive diagram

Giving evidence to a parliamentary committee

This week, Alison Dunn who leads the Invasive Non Native Species project gave evidence at the Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry into Invasive Species. iCASP had previously submitted written evidence to the inquiry and Alison was invited to attend the first evidence session where the Committee began to get an understanding of the issues that will shape the inquiry.

L-R: Mary Creagh MP (Chair of the EAC) with some of the witnesses from the enquiry, Professor Helen Roy (NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology), Dr Alison Dunn (iCASP, University of Leeds) and Professor Elizabeth Cottier-Cook (University of the Highlands and Islands and Scottish Association for Marine Science)

Some points that Alison made during her session include:

  • economically important impacts of invasive species on, for example, on the building trade and water companies
  • the importance of biosecurity to stop initial invasions, spread, or re-infestation
  • the unprecedented rate at which new species are being introduced
  • the reliance, in some cases, of biosecurity on voluntary agreements rather than legislation
  • the shift in climate that may affect whether an invasive species becomes problematic or not

Alison’s session can be seen on Parliament TV (begins at 11:36:00)

There is also a transcript of the session available

 

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