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Underpinning knowledge

Sources of funding

Environment Agency - Yorkshire & North East Woodland for Water Project; 2013

Environment Agency - Midlands Woodland for Water Project; 2013

Environment Agency, Natural England & Forestry Commission England - Vision and Strategy for Riparian Woodland Planting and Management to Improve River Ecology in the River Avon and River Frome; 2013

Forestry Commission Scotland & SEPA - Opportunity Mapping for Woodland Creation to Improve Water Quality and Reduce Flood Risk in the River Tay Catchment – a Pilot for Scotland; 2013

Natural Resources Wales - Opportunity Mapping for Woodland Creation to Reduce Flood Risk in Wales' Integrated Natural Resource Management Pilot Catchments (Rhondda, Tawe and Dyfi); 2014

Peer reviewed papers

Nisbet, T., Silgram, M., Shah, N., Morrow, K., and Broadmeadow, S. (2011). Woodland for Water: Woodland measures for meeting Water Framework Directive objectives. Forest Research Monograph, 4, Forest Research, Surrey, 156pp.

Further articles

Broadmeadow, S., Dandy, N. and Nisbet, T.R., 2013. Vision and strategy for riparian woodland planting and management to improve river ecology in the River Avon and River Frome. Final Report to Environment Agency, Natural England and Forestry Commission England (41pp).

Broadmeadow, S., Thomas, H. and Nisbet, T.R. 2013. Yorkshire & North East England Woodland for Water Project, Phase 1: Opportunity mapping. Final Report to the Environment Agency (56 pp).

Broadmeadow, S., Thomas, H., Shah, N and Nisbet, T.R., 2013. Opportunity mapping for woodland creation to improve water quality and reduce flood risk in the River Tay catchment – a pilot for Scotland. Final Report to FC Scotland and SEPA (40 pp).

Broadmeadow, S., & Nisbet, T.  (2012) National map of woodland creation opportunities: targeting eWGS to help meet the objectives of the WFD and reduce flood risk in England. Forest Research, Surrey, 30pp

Broadmeadow, S., and Nisbet, T. (2010). Opportunity mapping for woodland creation to reduce diffuse sediment and phosphate pollution in the Lake District. Final report for the Woodland Trust, Natural England and Forestry Commission England. Forest Research, Surrey, 62pp

Home > WaterR2B > Sectors > Farming and Food > How can ‘woodlands for water’ be targeted most effectively?

How can 'woodlands for water' be targeted most effectively?

The challenge

Woodlands are increasingly recognised as playing an important role in helping to meet the objectives of the Water Framework Directive, through reducing diffuse pollution from rural and urban sources and restoring the condition of riparian and aquatic habitats. Woodlands can also play an important role in ‘slowing the flow’, helping to reduce downstream flood risk.

However, opportunities for planting new woodlands are constrained by many factors, not least economics. It is important that woodland planting is targeted to the most effective locations, where it can generate the greatest benefits - but identifying such sites using conventional techniques can be difficult and time consuming.

The solution

Opportunity mapping has been developed by Forest Research to help identify the best locations for new woodlands and promote more integrated catchment management. The method uses Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and can be applied across a range of scales, from assessing opportunities for planting at a strategic national or regional level down to the practical catchment or farm scale.

The approach integrates a wide range of geospatial datasets, including soil characteristics, land use, designated sites, diffuse pollution sources and flood risk. Analysis of these datasets supports the targeting of preferred areas (where new woodlands could help), priority catchments (where new woodlands are needed to help) and priority locations (areas within priority catchments where planting would offer the greatest benefit).

Opportunity maps have been developed at a national scale for England, at regional scales for the Lake District, Midlands, Yorkshire and the North East, and at catchment scales for the River Derwent in North West England, Rivers Avon, Frome and Piddle in South West England, Rivers Clyde, Tay plus 13 other Priority catchments in Scotland, and  Rivers Rhondda, Tawe and Dyfi in Wales. These are being used by local stakeholders to identify priority areas for woodland creation to deliver a range of water and other benefits.

Resulting benefits

Some local examples of how the maps are being used include: to target areas for woodland planting in the Derwent catchment in Cumbria to reduce downstream flood risk, particularly to towns such as Keswick; in the Lake District National Park to help reduce sediment and nutrient loads to impacted waters such as Bassenthwaite Lake, in the Peak District to protect steep slopes, reduce rapid runoff and improve biodiversity (e.g. in the Moors for the Future’s Clough Woodlands project); and in the River Frome and Avon catchments in Dorset and Hampshire to improve the morphology and ecological functioning of designated riparian and aquatic habitats.

Future directions

The maps will continue to be updated and refined as new monitoring and modelled data become available. The approach will be extended to regions and catchments not already covered, and widened to incorporate other woodland values. The work is informing the new country rural development programmes and wider thinking on payments for ecosystem services. 

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