The city of Worcester hit the national headlines when severe flooding hit the area earlier this year, and now researchers from the University of Worcester are linking up with their South Korean counterparts to discuss the issue.
Dr Duncan Westbury, Senior Lecturer in Ecology and Environmental Management; Dr Ian Maddock, Head of the University of Worcester’s River Science Research Group; and Dr Tory Milner, Lecturer in Physical Geography, recently welcomed Dr Sang Won Bae and Dr Jino Kwon, of the Korea Forest Research Institute (KFRI) to the city.
The KFRI has played a significant role in developing forest science in South Korea over the last 90 years, and were in Worcester to discuss the benefits of afforestation – the process of converting open land into forest - such as improving water quality and climate regulation.
Dr Westbury explains: “The protection of natural resources is a global issue which benefits from collaboration at an international level. As such, we were delighted to welcome such esteemed colleagues to the University.
“There is a plethora of benefits for reinstating woodlands in the landscape, and whilst value gained in timber production is easy to quantify, other benefits are frequently overlooked.”
One of these benefits, Dr Maddock says, would be to reduce the risk of flooding.
“The benefits of afforestation on water resources are widespread, especially in terms of slowing down the movement of water through and over the landscape and therefore helping to reduce flood peaks downstream,” he said.
“Trees also utilise nutrients in the soil for their own growth. If they are planted on agricultural land alongside water courses they can act as ‘buffer zones’ helping to strip excessive nutrients out of the soil water before it enters the river channel and therefore help improve water quality too,” he adds.
During their visit, Dr Bae and Dr Kwon also toured the Forest of Dean, to view areas where natural regeneration of oak is being encouraged by the Forestry Commission, and the Malvern Hills. They also met with representatives of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, to discuss how woodland management is being used to promote wildlife.