Quantifying the hydrological implications of pre- and post-installation willowed engineered log jams (Pennine Uplands, NW England)

Nature Based Solutions (NBS), including Natural Flood Management (NFM) schemes are becoming an important component of many governmental and organisation responses to increases in flood and aridity risk.

NFM structures may take multiple forms to slow, store, disconnect and filter distributed overland flowpathways within a catchment that coalesce to generate a flood-wave downstream and runoff rather than infiltrate groundwaters.

To date few studies have conducted observations pre- and post-installation monitoring at river reach-scales, despite widespread and frequent installation, to investigate the efficacy of willowed engineered log jams (WELJs) interventions used in abating flood-flows, through backing-up flood-pulses with consequent reductions in downstream discharges.

This paper examines the efficiency, before and after installation of five 1 m high WELJs incorporating 1,000 Bay willow (Salix pentandra) saplings supporting the dead horizontal timber, across a total of 130 linear metres spanning the floodplain of a decommissioned reservoir. One rain gauge, two fixed point time-lapse wildlife cameras and three water level stations were installed: upstream-of, within, and downstream-of all WELJs.

The findings demonstrate a substantial reduction is achieved for most events, with an average of 27.3% reduction in peak discharge being achieved post-installation. The time to peak is little impacted, however there is demonstrable evidence of a longer and higher recessional limb to the events. These findings quantify for the first time the role that WELJs can play in a move towards re-naturalisation of water level regimes, with lower peak water flows achieved, and waters released from the river-reach more slowly.

Furthermore, baseflow during dry periods is also elevated by 27.1%, offering greater resilience to dry periods and droughts. Consequently, over the river-reach scale (0–130 m), WELJs play an important role in alleviating flood and drought risk through suppressing flood peaks and increasing baseflow during low flows; steps towards improved hydro-morphological quality overall.


Willowed log jams (∼dams) have been installed frequently to reduce flood risk

Few studies have assessed pre- and post- installation changes to watercourse flows

Discharge data shows an average 27.3% reduction on peaks, following installation

River-reach (0–130 m) wildlife camera photos and levels confirm attenuation

Willowed log jams re-naturalise flows, locally alleviating floods and droughts.

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