id21 Natural Resources Highlights: Floods and forests – integrating flood management
Many people worldwide believe that flooding events have increased over the past century as forests are depleted. According to common understanding, forests soak up excess water in upland areas, preventing floods in lowland areas. However, recent research by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the Center for International Forestry Research shows that many of these beliefs are not based on scientific fact.
Flood damage is usually measured in terms of economic losses. With economic growth, increased infrastructure development and rapidly growing floodplain populations, financial losses from floods have increased. Floods are therefore perceived to be more severe than in the past, but in physical terms there is little or no evidence of increased severity of floods over the past century. However, a failure to understand the relationships between forests and floods can lead to inappropriate policies, including:
- forced relocation of poor communities from uplands
- logging bans and restricted access to forest resources
- supporting costly reforestation schemes that may have little impact on reducing flooding
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