Natural measures to prevent floods valuable but not ‘a silver bullet’, say researchers

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Oxford Martin restatement finds claims that natural flood management will alleviate the worst floods are not supported by scientific evidence

Natural measures to manage flooding from rivers can play a valuable role in flood prevention, but a lack of monitoring means their true potential remains unclear, researchers say.

Such measures, including river restoration and tree planting, aim to restore processes that have been affected by human activities such as farming, land management and house-building.

Natural flood management is an area of increasing interest for policy makers, but its implementation can present a complex balancing act between the needs of different groups, including the public, farmers and land owners. Mixed messages about the efficacy and scalability of natural flood management measures add to the uncertainty surrounding their benefits.

Now a team of experts, led by Dr Simon Dadson of the University of Oxford, has compiled the evidence on natural flood management, in order to better inform policy decisions and show where crucial gaps in knowledge lie. Published today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A, the restatement clarifies the scientific evidence available from a variety of sources, ranging from field data to model projections and expert opinion...