Hello!  This is the October 2021 edition of the NFM Research Programme Newsletter.

We publish four issues a year to provide updates on the programme for all those involved with or interested in our work. 

We hope it’s an interesting read. Let us know what you think, and if you like it please pass it on!

Find out more about the research programme on our website here.
Research news

The detailed fieldwork programme for Landwise finally began this spring to much celebration after many delays caused by impacts from the Covid-19 pandemic. This fieldwork builds on the initial broad scale survey of over 150 fields that was completed in 2019. The detailed fieldwork involves monitoring various farm sites within the Thames catchment to determine how management practices affect soil properties, infiltration and below ground soil water storage. Seven land use and managements across five farms are being studied, incorporating arable land management rotations, controlled trafficked field operations, woodland and grassland. Fieldwork began with Emily Trill and John Robotham from CEH taking transects of soil samples from each site to look at changes in bulk density, organic matter, carbon content and texture with soil depth.  Lab analysis has been carried out at CEH and University of Reading.

Rob Fry from the University of Reading has been measuring below ground soil moisture content using electrical resistivity tomography (ERT).  This passes an electric current between regularly spaced metal electrodes to measure electrical resistivity below ground. Rob usually uses ERT to identify structures underground at archaeological sites, but it can also determine water content in soil as the amount of water will affect conductivity (and hence resistivity). These ERT transects will be taken throughout the growing season to determine water storage capability of each field and how it might change throughout the year. Surface soil moisture has also been measured using a time-domain reflectometry (TDR) moisture sensor.
The ERT set up 
This work will enable comparison of how below-ground water storage and infiltration may vary across different fields to see how soil and land management can deliver NFM.  Many of the management practices are being carried out for reasons other than flooding, so we are looking at NFM as a co-benefit.  This will combine with Will Maslanka’s (University of Reading) work, who will be using a radar rig to measure soil moisture remotely in some of these sites to see how soil moisture changes from ground based measurement to evaluate soil moisture data collected by satellites.

Through the Before-After-Control-Intervention (BACI) experiments in the Pennine upland peatlands, the Protect NFM team, led by Emma Shuttleworth, found that the peatland restoration practices of revegetation and gully blocking had significant flood management benefits. They revealed that revegetation increased flood peak lag times by 106% and decreased the peak magnitude by 27%. When combined with gully blocking this changed to a 200% increase and 51% decrease, respectively.  Further work on this has recently been completed by Salim Goudarzi and the modelling team, who sought to uncover what the primary drivers of this reduction and delay in flood peaks were, or if they interacted in combination to cause the reduction in flow.

They rigorously calibrated a numerical rainfall-runoff model (TOPMODEL) using the BACI experimental data. They looked at parameters that would likely affect water flow and storage, including overland flow celerity (the speed with which rainfall-induced perturbations in the surface water travel overland), potential evaporation, root zone storage and transmissivity. Looking at absolute and relative effects, they have found that the benefits from peatland restoration are primarily caused by a reduction in celerity through increased surface roughness. This is due to an increase in the storage capacity of overland flow known as kinematic storage. This was the case for large and small storms, although to varying degrees. In contrast, the static storage, i.e. the water immobilised by transpiration in the vegetation and ponding behind the blocked gullies, was not significant in reducing peak discharge, particularly for large storm events.  

Figures from Goudarzi et al. (2021) as presented in the Protect NFM May 2021 Newsletter.
It is very encouraging to show that these restoration practices, that were implemented purely to restore the peatland and not for their flood prevention properties, do still have significant NFM benefits. The team suggest that coupling NFM with peatland restoration programmes could improve the response even more, suggesting using permeable blocking of gullies to optimise surface roughness, and to create more shallow open water pools to make the most of static storage capacity.

See the full paper here
For more information contact Salim Goudarzi:
NFM Webinar Series
We run a programme of monthly 60-minute webinars to allow NFM researchers and practitioners to share knowledge and experience. We now have a finalised schedule through to November 2021.  You can see the full programme and book for free on our website here.   If you missed out on previous webinars, you can access recordings here.

Upcoming webinars

21 October 2021 12:30 – 13:30  Prof Martin Evans & Dr Donald Edokpa, University of Manchester: Protect NFM

The use of empirical evidence in the Protect NFM research 

Sign up for your free place via Eventbrite here.

Protect-NFM has worked alongside partners including Moors for the Future Partnership and the Environment Agency to carry out field studies to better understand the NFM efficacy of upland restoration works. The experiments have been carried out to assess the potential impact of various forms of gully blocking, restoration of Sphagnum cover on moorlands, and establishment of upland woodlands on hillslope runoff production and channel flow. In this presentation, Martin and Donald will provide a synthesis of empirical evidence from preliminary results obtained from these experiments. They will show the potential storage capacity of large stone dams (Brownies) in a flood-relevant event and highlight opportunities for optimisation. And how enhancing roughness properties can increase lag times and moderate runoff from peatland systems.

Above: Moorland gully blocking large stone dam (Brownies)

25 November 2021 12:30 – 13:30 Professor Joanna ClarkDr James Blake, Emily Trill, Barbara Percy

Land use and management for Natural Flood Management: Exploring the evidence from the Landwise project

Sign up for your free place via Eventbrite here.

Overview of the findings and recommendations from the Landwise project including a web tool for visualisation.  And how different Natural Flood Management measures related to land use and land management affect soil physical and hydrological properties with implications for flood risk management. Survey sites have included a range of arable, permanent grassland and woodland land uses over chalk, limestone and mudstone geology. Farming practices included range from conventional to highly innovative.
Above: LANDWISE fieldwork soil sampling arable land
Previous Webinar

26 August 2021 12:30 – 13:30 Professor Chris Spray, Dr Andrew Black (University of Dundee) and Dr Barry Hankin (JBA Consulting) 

The Eddleston Water Project – 10 years of implementing, monitoring and empirical analysis of catchment scale NFM measures

The Eddleston Water Project, located north of Peebles in the Scottish Borders, is an ongoing long-term empirical study to understand changes in runoff dynamics resulting from NFM interventions.  Over 10 years the study has revealed a great deal of complexity in terms of runoff generation and hydrograph characteristics.  It now provides a rich source of data from more than 20 water level monitoring sites, enabling analysis of the interplay between attenuated and unmodified flows in a catchment characterised by varying geology and land uses.  In particular, the growing data set provides a valuable resource for the testing of hydrological models of runoff attenuation.

See the recording here

Meet the NFM researcher: Dr Tom Nisbet from Forest Research, working on the LANDWISE project.
In this edition, Gerard Stewart spoke to Dr Tom Nisbet about his research, involvement with LANDWISE, and the importance of woodlands for NFM
Over 30 years of experience
Tom works for Forest Research and leads the Physical Environment Research Group. He has over 30 years of experience in forest hydrology and applied catchment management, including leading the Slowing the Flow at Pickering NFM project. His team have been at the forefront of evaluating the contribution of forestry to NFM, with results directly informing forest policy and practice.
Tom’s work within LANDWISE has focussed on mapping, however he politely acknowledges that most of this is being lead by his colleague Samantha Broadmedow. The work mainly involves opportunity mapping, which Samantha discussed in the previous edition of the newsletter. Tom sits on the Project Leaders Group and actively contributes to discussions, including on the field studies and NFM modelling; he is particularly interested in improving the way that woodland processes and measures are represented within hydrological models.

Benefits of Woodlands
Naturally, Tom is very passionate about woodlands, and everything that they have to offer for NFM. Of course, this advocation comes with the understanding that woodlands can also have their disbenefits, including reducing water resources. This is a particular issue in the Southeast of England, an area often under water stress, where there is high demand for water yet oftentimes low supply. Tom explained that England is one of the least wooded countries in Europe and there is a push to expand woodland cover by an additional 2% by 2050, which could potentially threaten some water supplies. Managing this issue requires better targeting of planting to maximise flood and other benefits, while minimising any trade-offs, which is where the LANDWISE opportunity mapping comes in. A key need is to improve existing opportunity maps to aid strategic planning. Making these maps available and accessible to all stakeholders is also vital to help to reduce the disconnect between community groups and top-down regulators. 

Community Focus
One novel part of the research is the community focus in flood management. The translation of knowledge into a bottom-up approach is key to this, as lay-knowledge and the lived-experience is incredibly valuable in learning how NFM should be implemented. There is still a lot to learn about how to marry conventional top down and community-focused bottom-up approaches. 

You can hear more about Tom’s work on woodlands and NFM in our webinar recording here
Publications to date

Alderson, D.M., Evans M.G., Shuttleworth, E.L., Pilkington, M., Spencer T., Walker J. and Allott T.E.H. (May 2019). Trajectories of ecosystem change in restored blanket peatland, Science of the Total Environment, Vol. 665, pp. 785-796  view online

Allott, T. E. H., Auñón, J., Dunn, C., Evans, M. G., Jill, L., Paul, L.,Walker, J., (2019). Peatland Catchments and Natural Flood Management. Report to the IUCN UK Peatland Programme’s Commission of Inquiry on Peatlands Update

Beven, K. (2021). An epistemically uncertain walk through the rather fuzzy subject of observation and model uncertainties. Hydrological Processes in press. 10.1002/hyp.14012 view online

Beven, K. 2021. Issues in generating stochastic observables for hydrological models. Hydrological Processes 35(6): e14203. view online or view paper (pdf).

Beven, K.J. and Chappell, N.A. 2021. Perceptual perplexity and parameter parsimony. WIREs Water 8(4): e1530 view online or view paper (pdf).

Beven, K. (2020). Deep learning, hydrological processes and uniqueness of place. Hydrological Processes 34(16): 3608-3613. view online

Beven, K., Asadullah, A., Bates, P., Blyth, E., Chappell, N., Child, S., Cloke, H., Dadson, S., Everard, N., Fowler, H.J., Freer, J., Hannah, D.M., Heppell, K., Holden, J., Lamb, R., Lewis, H., Morgan, G., Parry, L., and Wagener, T., (2020). Developing observational methods to drive future hydrological science: Can we make a start as a community? Hydrological Processes 34(3): 868-873 view online or view POSTnote (pdf).

Beven K., (2019). Towards a methodology for testing models as hypotheses in the inexact sciences. Proc. R. Soc. A 475: 20180862. view online or view paper (pdf).

Beven, K. (2019). How to make advances in hydrological modelling. Hydrology Research view online or view paper (pdf).

Beven K. (2018). On hypothesis testing in hydrology: why falsification of models is still a really good idea. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews Water 5:e1278. view online or view paper (pdf).

Beven, K. (2018). A century of denial: preferential and non-equilibrium water flow in soils, 1864-1984. Vadose Zone Journal. 17(1) doi:10.2136/vzj2018.08.0153 view online

Collins, S.L., Christelis V., Jackson, R, Mansour, M.M., Macdonald, D.M.J., Andrew, K.A.P. Barkwith, A.K.A.P. (2020). Towards integrated flood inundation modelling in groundwater-dominated catchments. Journal of Hydrology 591: 125755. view online

Hankin, B., Hewitt, I., Sander, G., Danieli, F., Formetta, G., Kamilova, A., Kretzschmar, A., Kiradjiev, K., Wong, C., Pegler, S. and Lamb, R. (2020). A risk-based network analysis of distributed in-stream leaky barriers for flood risk management. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences 20(10): 2567-2584. view online

Hankin, B. Metcalfe, P., Beven, K. and Chappell, N.A. (2019). Integration of hillslope hydrology and 2d hydraulic modelling for natural flood management. Hydrology Researchview online

Hankin, B., Page, B., McShane, G., Chappell, N., Spray, C., Black, A. and Comins, L. 2021. How can we plan resilient systems of nature-based mitigation measures in larger catchments for flood risk reduction now and in the future? Water Security 13: 100091 view online or view paper (pdf)

Mehring P., Geoghegan H., Cloke H., and Clark J. (2018). What is going wrong with community engagement? How flood communities and flood authorities construct engagement and partnership working. Environmental Science & Policy. Vol. 89, pp. 109-115 view online

Metcalfe, P., Beven, K., Hankin, B. and Lamb, R. (2018). A new method, with application, for analysis of the impacts on flood risk of widely distributed enhanced hillslope storage, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 22, 2589-2605,, 2018. view online

Neumann, J., Arnal, L., Magnusson, L. and Cloke, H. (2018) The 2013/14 Thames basin floods: do improved meteorological forecasts lead to more skilful hydrological forecasts at seasonal timescales? Journal of Hydrometeorology, 19. pp. 1059­1075. ISSN 1525­7541 doi: view online

Neumann, J., Arnal, L., Emerton, R., Griffith, H., Hyslop, S., Theofanidi, S. and Cloke, H. (2018) Can seasonal hydrological forecasts inform local decisions and actions? A decision-making activity. Geoscience Communications, 1. pp. 35-57. ISSN 2569-7110 doi: view online

Page, T., Chappell, N.A., Beven, K.J., Hankin, B. and Kretzschmar, A. (2020). Assessing the significance of wet-canopy evaporation from forests during extreme rainfall events for flood mitigation in mountainous regions of the United Kingdom. Hydrological Processes in press. view online

Shuttleworth E.L., Evans M.G., Shuttleworth E.L., Pilkington M., Spencer T., Walker J., Milledge D. and Allott T.E.H., (2019). Restoration of blanket peat moorland delays stormflow from hillslopes and reduces peak discharge. Journal of Hydrology X, Vol 2. pp. 1-14  view online. Emma Shuttleworth explains the findings in a video here

Wallace, E. E. and Chappell, N.A. (2020). A statistical comparison of spatio-temporal surface moisture patterns beneath a semi-natural grassland and permanent pasture: From drought to saturation. Hydrological Processes 34: 3000-3020. view online

Wallace, E. E. and Chappell, N.A. (2019). Blade aeration effects on near-surface permeability and overland-flow likelihood on two stagnosol pastures in Cumbria, UK. Journal of Environmental Quality 48(6): 1766-1774. view online or view paper (pdf).

Wallace, E.E., McShane, G., Tych, W., Kretzschmar, A., McCann, T. and Chappell, N.A. (2021). The effect of hedgerow wild-margins on topsoil hydraulic properties, and overland-flow incidence, magnitude and water-quality. Hydrological Processes in press. view online.

Wendler, J. and Shuttleworth, E.L. (2019). Downpour!–Flood risk communication through interactive immersive street games. Research for All3(1), pp.18-24. view online

Wentworth, J. and Ermgassen, S.Z. (2020). Natural mitigation of flood risk. POSTnote: 623 (May 2020). UK Parliament. Contributions from Q-NFM team members Hankin and Chappell. view online or view paper (pdf).

Partner initiatives
Phiala Mehring, University of Reading- Beneath the Waterline

If you don’t live at risk of flooding, then flooding is probably something you only talk about when it hits the headlines.  We are, sadly, getting used to seeing dramatic flooding pictures on the News which may make the headlines for a couple of days and then its all in the past.  Unfortunately, it isn’t in the past for those who live at risk of flooding.  The flood waters are really only the beginning of flooding.  As the waters recede, they don’t just leave behind them mud and mess, they leave behind personal trauma, stress, a very long process of making your home habitable, financial impacts, work impacts, impacts on your children, pets and the constant fear of flooding again. 

Flooding is so much more than water in your lounge! Beneath the water line uncovers the personal impact of flooding and the dramatic negative impact flooding has on the quality of life of those it impacts.

Engage with the interactive PDF here (best read in Adobe)

Thank you
We would like to extend a great thank you to two people in particular who are moving on. 

Ruth Kelman, from UKRI NERC, has now moved on to UKRI ESPRC.
I was the NERC lead on the NFM programme. It has been a real pleasure to work on the NFM programme, as it is delivering novel, innovative research with real-world benefits, which I think is a testament to the hard work and collegiate approach of both the project teams and the programme partners and I hope everyone is proud of what they have achieved. In May I moved to ESPRC to take up the role of Deputy Director, International, and while NFM is not part of my new role I will still be following the progress of the NFM programme out of interest!


Lydia Burgess-Gamble, from the EA, is now managing an INTERREG project 
In October I start a 2 year assignment (still within the Environment Agency) project managing a fantastic INTERREG project called ‘Promoting adaptation to changing coast’ (PACCO). Excitingly the project works across two estuaries, the Lower Otter in Devon and the Saan Valley in Normandy France – looking to restore them to enable CC adaptation. It has been amazing working with you all over the years and seeing how much has been achieved. 

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NERC NFM Programme · Department of Geography & Environmental Science · University of Reading · Reading, Berkshire RG6 6DW · United Kingdom

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