Earth Day 2016 – How Trees Help to Reduce Flooding

This year’s Earth Day will be held on April 22nd, and will be the 46th event of its kind. The event brings together people from all over the world to raise awareness, support and participation for environmental protection.

This year’s event has a specific goal, dubbed ‘Trees for Earth’, which aims to plant 7.8 billion trees by 2020.

This ambitious goal is part of the countdown to their 50th anniversary, with the specific focus on trees intended to help provide a “significant and measurable impact on the Earth”. It is also hoped that it will serve as the foundation of a “cleaner, healthier and more sustainable planet for all”.

Trees not only form a vital part of the ecosystem, but they can have both large and small-term impacts on the environment. Over the last few years there has even been a significant amount of research done to show that trees can have an impact on flooding levels.


Trees and flooding

Trees can have an impact on flooding in a number of ways. High density canopies can distribute rainwater by simply catching it. This can impact the effects of flooding because rainwater will be scattered more freely, instead of potentially flowing into a single drainage network.

Soil’s absorbent nature can also work to delay and divert heavy water flow, although some argue that during seasons of high flooding and rainfall, this impact is negligible.

One of its biggest impacts, and the impact which a number of flood preventative agencies are looking to exploit, is the natural effect that tree roots, foliage and deadwood can have in diverting the flow of streams and water flow. Recent research led by the Universities of Birmingham and Southampton, and funded by the Environment Agency, has suggested that taking a tributary stream to a main river and then foresting the area around it could help in flood-prone areas. They said that this could create a drop of up to 20% in flood maximum by doing this over 25-40% of the main catchment.

Though this would be hard to achieve, in conjunction with other flood preventative measures it shows a promising step in reducing flood damage around the world. Plus, it highlights the impact that trees have on almost every part of our day to day life.

Anyone interested in taking part in this year’s Earth Day activities is encouraged to look on the Earth Day website for locally hosted events, or feel free to host their own, using the Earth Day toolkit.