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Project seeks to reduce rural flood risk

A £1.2m project aims to trail low-cost ways to reduce the risk of flash floods in rural communities.

Led by geographers from Manchester university, the project's goal is to show that landscape restoration can reduce flood risks to communities near steep upland streams and rivers.

Reasearchers are working with project partners Moors for the Future Partnership, and colleagues at University of Leeds, Durham University and Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire Environment Agency/

They hope to understand how natural flood management methods might help to protect 22 at-risk communities in the Peak District, along the western fringe of the Pennines.

Vulnerable rural communities are often small and spread out, and rarely justify expensive traditional flood defences.

Previous investigations carried out by the researchers have shown that upland restoration can have a substantial impact on the flow of water during storms.

Reintroducing vegetation to bare soils and damming up erosional channels increases the roughness of the land’s surface and slows the flow of water entering streams.

This helps delay the release of water from the uplands and reduces peak stream flow during storms, alleviating the chance of flooding downstream.

The project aims to improve understanding of how to dam up gullies, assess the impact of restoring sphagnum moss cover on moorlands, and determine how newly-planted upland woodlands affect storm flow.

It will also assess the longer-term evolution of woodland and gully blocking approaches - this is important, as investment in natural flood management requires confidence in the long-term impact of restoration and maintenance of the interventions.

The project will also develop user-friendly computer simulations and investigate how any findings can be applied elsewhere in the UK.

"Our previous work has suggested that moorland restoration has the potential to reduce flood peaks downstream," said project leader Martin Evans.

The project is one of only three to be granted funding by NERC (National Environmental Research Council), as part of a programme to understand the effectiveness of natural flood management.

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