The potential for reducing flood risk through changes to rural land management: outcomes from the Flood Risk Management Research Consortium

Neil McIntyre, Caroline Ballard, Nataliya Bulygina, Zoe Frogbrook, Ian Cluckie, Stephen Dangerfield, John Ewen, Josie Geris, Alex Henshaw, Bethanna Jackson, Miles Marshall, Tim Pagella, Jong-Sook Park, Brian Reynolds, Enda O'Connell, Greg O'Donnell, Fergus Sinclair, Imogen Solloway, Colin Thorne, Howard Wheater

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingPublished conference contribution


Changes to rural land management are widely perceived as an effective complement to, or even replacement for, traditional flood defence and flood-risk related sediment management actions. This is implicit in recent reports and legislation that influence UK FRM policy and practice, for example the Pitt Report (2008), the EU Floods Directive (2009) and the Floods and Water Act (2010). However, an extensive Defra review published in 2004 concluded that evidence to support the value of land management in this context was at that time extremely limited. This lack of evidence has been addressed by research initiatives between 2004 and 2012 including, particularly, research performed by the Flood Risk Management Research Consortium (FRMRC: This paper provides an overview of the new evidence provided by FRMRC and other recent research, and evaluates the significance of the main findings. Upland experimental programmes have shown that land use management changes can have significant impacts on flood generation at the local scale; increases or decreases in flood peaks can result, depending on the nature of the changes. However, at the catchment scale, any benefits to flood risk management from local scale mitigation measures are likely to be small, due to the direct effect of scale itself and the transmission effects in propagating change through the river channel network. Modelling results for a large lowland catchment confirm the latter findings. However, when a broader view of catchment management is taken that encompasses linkages to sediments and a range of ecosystem services, it is evident that significant benefits could result from an integrated management approach. Priorities for the research needed to quantify these benefits are outlined.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBHS Eleventh National Symposium, Hydrology for a changing world
PublisherBritish Hydrological Society
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print) 1903741181
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Bibliographical note

The funders of the two phases of FRMRC were: EPSRC (EP/FP202511/1), Environment Agency of England and Wales, DEFRA, OPW, Northern Ireland Rivers Agency, SNIFFER Additional funders of the research were: NERC (NE/F001134/1), United Utilities with RSPB (SCaMP). The authors would also like to thank the land owners and managers who made the experimental work possible, and the steering groups/ management boards who helped direct and facilitate the research.


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