How trees help in preventing floods



 

Trees are one of the most important organisms that exist on planet Earth

Food for all living organisms originates from trees and other members in the plant kingdom. Every single organism depends directly or indirectly on trees for their survival. Trees not only provide food for other organisms, but also shelter and protection to many different types of organisms including humans. In addition, trees also provide wood, shade, oxygen and clean air. During heavy rains, trees reduce the risk of flooding. There are two major ways in which trees provide protection against flooding.

Trees allow water to be drained into the ground

Experts say that woodland acts as a barrier to floodwater, while trees also prevent soil erosion, reducing sediment going into rivers and increasing water absorption into the ground. This slows rainwater running off into swollen streams and helps lower peak flood levels.
 See how a tree aids ground water and prevents run off that can cause flooding


Trees help prevent flooding. When plants grow in an area, the roots of plants dig deep in to the soil and create space between soil particles. When it rains in highlands, water that flows downhill gets drained into the space created by the root system of plants. Due to this, chance of flooding is greatly reduced. When plants are absent, especially in rocky areas, rocks prevent water from seeping into the ground. This phenomenon is also observed in paved roads. Since there is no room for water to seep, flooding occurs in nearby water bodies. When a layer of water runs off a rocky surface, it reduces friction and the following layers of water will run more freely as there is less friction. If more water is dumped into rivers and lakes than they can handle, these water bodies tend to overflow and the banks burst and cause flooding. If there are more trees in an area that is prone to water runoffs, the root system of trees can create space between these rocks and hence reduce the amount of water being dumped into lakes and rivers.

 See the lack of trees: trees act as storm water traps.

When land is paved over or covered, by roads and roofs for example, it is like putting “Plastic Wrap” on top of the ground. Rain that would have soaked into the ground and recharged the groundwater now runs across the surface creating “storm water run-off” which must be collected, conveyed, and discharged to a receiving body, typically rivers. As more water is running off the earth than soaking into it, more water must fit into existing pipes. These pipes are not large enough to handle the increased flows, causing flooding and overwhelming our rivers with pollutants which make our waterways unsafe for swimming and the fish too toxic to eat. Trees put holes in the “Plastic Wrap” and allow rain to infiltrate into the ground and recharge groundwater rather than running off the surface.

The influence of forests and forest alteration on water yield and timing is complex. Where forests were the original land cover, the protective effect consists in maintaining as far as possible the ‘natural’ flow regime, which inevitably consisted of both flooding and low flows to which stream channels and associated biota were adjusted. With human intervention and occupancy, there is a need for better understanding of the forest/water interaction. With regard to floods, it is now quite clear that forests reduce storm-flow peaks and delay them better than other land cover, but that this effect occurs close to a forest and diminishes further downstream in the watershed. On major rivers, headwater forests have little or no effect in reducing flood intensity in the downstream reaches. But close to the protective forest, the frequent, lower intensity storms are ameliorated more than with other land covers or land uses, to the benefit of local people.



Healthy forests and wetland systems provide a host of watershed services, including water purification, ground water and surface flow regulation, erosion control, and stream bank stabilization. The importance of these watershed services will only increase as water quality becomes a critical issue around the globe. Their financial value becomes particularly apparent when the costs of protecting an ecosystem for improved water quality are compared with investments in new or improved infrastructure, such as purification plants and flood control structures – in many cases it is often cheaper and more efficient to invest in ecosystem management and protection.

At Sustainable Green Initiative, we plant trees to help the fight against climate change and also hunger, poverty and rural migration.  By planting a tree through us, you help in doing your bit to mitigate your carbon footprint and carry on the fight against hunger, poverty and climate change.

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