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How can we plan resilient systems of nature-based mitigation measures in larger catchments for flood risk reduction now and in the future?

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

Article number100091
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/08/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>Water Security
Number of pages8
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date28/07/21
<mark>Original language</mark>English


There is considerable empirical evidence that using nature-based solutions to restore and enhance hydrological processes such as infiltration, interception, floodplain re-connection and water storage, is effective at small scales for low to medium probability floods. However, the performance of systems of spatially distributed nature-based solutions at larger scales or under the more extreme flooding expected with climate change, has mainly been assessed using modelling. The mechanism by which carefully designed nature-based solutions can provide naturally adaptive pathways to divert higher flood flows into expandable areas of storage in the landscape, has been less formally investigated. This paper reports on new hydrometric data collected from one of eighteen small-scale, accurately monitored micro-catchments in Cumbria, UK, to study the effect in more detail. The micro-catchments have been set up by Lancaster Environment Centre as part of the Q-NFM project attempting to quantify changes in hydrological responses due to a range of natural flood management measures that have been installed by catchment partners. A direct-runoff 2d inundation model was setup and calibrated using accurate flow measurements upstream and downstream of new river restoration project in the Lowther catchment (2.5 km2) for two large storm events (Storms Ciara and Dennis, February 2020). It was used to analyse how the storage on the floodplain can expand with flood magnitude, and can be enhanced with appropriately designed natural flood management. Model evidence was then assessed for the same mechanism in the larger UK catchments of Eddleston Water (70 km2) and Culm (280 km2) using the same whole-catchment direct-runoff modelling approach. For both of these large catchments the same expandable field storage is evident, and we highlight how this latent property of well-designed nature-based solutions can complement traditional strategies and provide significant economic benefits over a thirty-year appraisal period of the order of €0.7 m.