King’s researchers are testing the impact of natural flood-management techniques across London and the south-east.
Using low-cost sensors developed by a team in the Department of Geography within the Faculty of Social Science & Public Policy, researchers are working alongside partners including the Environment Agency, the charity Thames21 and various river trusts, farmers and landowners to assess the effectiveness of natural flood-management interventions. Introduced in addition to, or instead of, concrete flood defences, these nature-based methods such as regenerative agriculture, leaky log dams and retention ponds aim to slow the flow of heavy rain towards rivers in flood-prone areas.
The team’s monitoring work to date shows that regenerative agriculture – or farming without or with reduced ploughing – retains greater levels of carbon in the soil, which increases earthworm populations significantly and also allows rainfall to enter the soil more easily. This promises to alleviate the flooding of downstream towns and cities, while also directing more water towards the aquifers (porous rock or sediment saturated with groundwater) that supply domestic water in London and beyond.
By testing natural flood management over large areas of farmland that connect to the River Thames, researchers hope to evaluate whether increased uptake of regenerative agriculture techniques can limit flooding from rivers large and small. Dr Mark Mulligan, Head of the Department of Geography, said, ‘To date, our research shows that regenerative agriculture does direct more water into soils and groundwater, so that less water travels rapidly into river systems, including the Thames.’
Through the work of King’s researchers and their partners, the effectiveness of natural flood management is being tested and will inform future investment into the approach across the capital and in towns, cities and rural areas throughout the UK.