Trees and woodlands have long been known to play a vital role in flood resilience, but scientists are now able to establish the financial contribution they make in protecting communities from flooding.

New research published recently by Forest Research estimates Great Britain’s trees contribute over £400m annually in benefits. The valuation is based on the role trees, woodlands and forests play in intercepting rainfall, storing water and reducing the potentially devastating surface runoff that causes flooding. Given the increased likelihood and frequency of extreme weather events as a result of climate change, the report highlights how woodland expansion can be a natural, cost-effective method of protecting homes and businesses – now and for the future.

The government is investing £5.2 billion over six years in around 2,000 flood and coastal erosion schemes to better protect communities across England, with one in six properties at risk of flooding.

Forestry Minister Trudy Harrison said: “Communities across the country know all too well the potentially devastating impacts of flooding – from damage to homes and businesses and the disruption of critical infrastructure to the tragic loss of life.

“This report provides the best picture yet of the integral role that our trees, woodlands, and forests play in protecting at-risk communities from flooding. With more severe weather events forecast in the future, there is even more incentive to accelerate our tree planting efforts in line with our ambitious target to treble planting rates in England.”

Forestry Commission Chief Executive, Richard Stanford said: “We know nature-based solutions have an important role to play in reducing flood risk in an affordable way with multiple benefits beyond flood alleviation. This ground-breaking research underscores the significant contribution our trees, woodlands and forests make in reducing peak water flows following heavy rainfall – helping to protect homes, businesses and livelihoods nationwide from the disastrous impacts of flooding.”

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