The benefit of floods

We are too inclined to view floods negatively. We assess them in terms of the disruption they cause or the financial cost of repairing the damage they do to our property. But in natural ecosystems, such as our park, floods play an important role in maintaining biodiversity.

Yearly flooding links Lambrok Stream and its tributary with the surrounding fields; floods recharge our groundwater systems, fill the wetland, increase the connectivity between aquatic habitats, and move sediment and nutrients around the landscape.

This winter’s floods will have refilled the marshy areas in Lambrok Meadow where caddis fly and common frogs breed, and swept the larvae from our swan mussel colony far and away downstream.

The flooding may have improved our ecosystem. The fish living in the stream will have been dispersed by the speed of the floodwater, and new blood from upstream will have arrived to broaden local gene pools and strengthen our populations of stickleback, bullhead and roach. A incoming predator can create gaps in a habitat for new species to move into; an incoming prey species can boost local populations of predators.

1. Jerusalem artichoke by Ian Bushell;
2. Black sedge and 3. Marsh marigold from our archives

Each year’s floods have added to our species lists. This year, we have identified four new species of plants within the Lambrok’s flood plain: marsh marigold, red bartsia, black sedge and Jerusalem artichoke. All four may have arrived as seed or roots with the floodwaters of previous years.

The periodic floods in the park are part of a dynamic system; they contribute enormously to the restoration of the park’s natural landscape. They alter the topography and the soils, the flora and the fauna of the Lambrok’s floodplain, and are returning Lambrok Meadow to its natural state: seasonal wetland.

Be patient as you wade through the water and trudge through the swampy bits. As you scrape the mud off your boots and your dog before you put them all into the car, try to think of it as part of the natural processes of the park.

Pictures of floodwater taken in the park January 15th by Clive Knight

2 thoughts on “

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  1. It’s good to know flooding has benefits as well as drawbacks. It’s just nature doing what it does, we are the ones who have to adapt.

    1. It began to rain when Earth had cooled enough for water to condense; this was long before there was any life here so, when it arrived, life must have evolved in landscapes that were being continuously re-shaped by floods.

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