Skip to content

FWN39 Spring 2023 – Valuing the Role of Woodlands in Reducing Flooding

31 March 2023

New ground-breaking research has put an economic value on the contribution of Scotland’s woodlands in helping to prevent flooding. This new study builds on firm scientific evidence on how woodlands use water and slow down run-off and takes a step forward by showing what this might be worth in economic terms.

The study estimates that woodlands in Scotland are worth almost £100 million a year to communities in areas at risk from flooding. With the prospect of wetter winters due to the effects of climate change, and more intense rainfall in summer, the ability of trees to reduce flood risk is becoming increasingly important.

Putting a monetary value on this gives farmers and land managers further tangible evidence of the benefits of woodlands on their land. It also helps flooding authorities, environmental agencies and others consider how woodlands can be an important part of their efforts to tackle the impacts of climate change. Pat Snowdon, Head of Economics and Woodland Carbon Code at Scottish Forestry, who commissioned the new study, said:

“Climate change is bringing many global challenges. Our weather patterns are changing and we can expect wetter winters and more intense rain in summer. This brings the very unwelcome risk of more flooding.

“Woodlands have long been associated with an ability to reduce flooding. The latest models allow researchers to quantify how woodlands create a “sponge” effect, reducing rapid run-off that causes flooding.

“This research provides new data that fills a major evidence gap on the economic value of woodlands.”

The GB-wide research was jointly funded by Scottish Forestry, the Forestry Commission and the Welsh Government. It was carried out by an interdisciplinary team at Forest Research, led by Dr. Tom Nisbet, with assistance from the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

Pat Snowdon
Head of Economics and Woodland Carbon Code, Scottish Forestry

flooded landscape

Sign up to the FAS newsletter

Receive updates on news, events and publications from Scotland’s Farm Advisory Service