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Legacy effects of extreme flood events on soil quality and ecosystem functioning - LM0316

The UK has witnessed unprecedented flooding this winter (2013-2014). Severe long-term flooding of agricultural land can have disastrous impacts on soil quality and function, as well as other adverse impacts on water quality and biodiversity, resulting in severe consequences on the economic and social wellbeing of rural communities and potential impacts on subsequent agricultural production.
Climate change scenarios often predict that the frequency of extreme weather events such as flooding will increase in the future. In order to enhance the resilience of the agricultural sector to such events, Defra will need to develop mechanisms to support the implementation of innovative agricultural practices in areas impacted by the flooding. The design of such practices relies on basic science, and critically on the assessment of the response of soil ecosystems and crops to flooding, as well as on an in-depth understanding of current and future farmer behaviors and strategies to address this issue.
The persistence and magnitude of floodwaters in the Somerset Levels and the Shropshire region provide a unique opportunity to investigate the impacts of long-term floodwater inundation on soil health and its subsequent recovery, and to explore how farming practices could be adapted to improve the resilience of soils to future flooding events.
This project compliments, via matched funding, a NERC funded Urgency grant to understand the effects of prolonged flooding on biological (microbial, meso- and macro-faunal communities and activity), chemical (pH, available nutrients) and physical factors (capping, infiltration rates, aeration), and fundamental soil processes underpinning ecosystem function. This project also complements another Defra funded project (LM0314) which is assessing the economic impact of the last flooding on the agricultural sector.
Knowledge of the effects of prolonged flooding on soil health and ability of agricultural land to maintain food production is required to be able to make critically informed judgments on future land management activities. Information from the project will be available for linking to EA/Defra flood risk mapping to help prioritise remediation/restoration strategies and interventions delivered via farmer advice and other potential support mechanisms. This project will also address additional impacts of flooding; e.g. on risks to human health (via viruses and bacteria), changes in soil C stocks and greenhouse emissions.
The aims of this Defra project are to:
(i) provide information on the negative effects of recent flood events on soil properties
(ii) identify potential tipping points in terms of inundation time
(iii) quantify rates of recovery and any potentially irreversible effects
(iv) identify potential intervention measures to promote recovery through pre- and post-flooding management
(v) determine levels of farmer adaptation to flood risk
Project Documents
• FRP - Final Report : LM0316 Legacy Effects of Extreme Flood final report   (2748k)
• ANX - Annex : Appendices 2-4   (4354k)
• ANX - Annex : Appendix 1 Farmer's Report for DEFRA   (2427k)
• ANX - Annex : Appendix 5 - PCA results   (391k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2014

To: 2015

Cost: £71,052
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Bangor University