13 Jan 2023

Study puts value on Scotland’s trees that prevent flooding

A  “cutting edge” study published today has put an economic value on Scotland’s woodlands in helping to prevent flooding.

It estimates that the capacity of woodlands to store water and slow down run-off to downstream communities after heavy rain, is worth almost £100 million a year in Scotland.

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 ‘ecosystem service’ helps flooding authorities better understand the true savings that woodlands are making in reducing flooding.

Pat Snowdon, Head of Economics and Woodland Carbon Code at Scottish Forestry, commissioned the new study which was led by Forest Research, He 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 aims to bring a tangible value to the role of woodlands in protecting communities against flooding and will help local authorities, environmental agencies and others consider how woodlands can be an important part of their efforts to tackle the impacts of climate change.

The research was carried out by an interdisciplinary team at Forest Research, led by Dr.Tom Nisbet, and with assistance from the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

You can view the study Revised valuation of flood regulation services of existing forest cover to inform natural capital accounts here.