Natural Flood Management (NFM) is a suite of interventions to manage the risk of flooding, based on naturalistic methods – such as the use of natural materials, natural features and natural processes – and so it is also known in some cases as Working with Natural Processes (WwNP) or Water-Sensitive Land Management. The term ‘NFM’ generally includes both relatively diffuse measures where a significant portion of the land area of a catchment is changed or managed (such as large-scale upland afforestation), and relatively focused measures that affect only a small area (such as flood water storage ponds). NFM is of interest at a catchment scale because of its implications to both water resource and flood risk management, as well as other benefits gained in amenity, ecology or other ecosystem services.

NFM is an active area of research for the Environment Agency, and has received extensive coverage by conservation interest groups (see for example WWF Scotland, 2007). However, some commentators have cautioned against over-optimism in the use of NFM. Calder & Aylward (2006), for example, find there to be a discrepancy between scientific evidence and public perception of the efficacy of NFM (particularly afforestation projects), and blame this on the promotion of certain ‘simplistic and populist land management solutions’ by interest groups.

See the ‘Woodland’ tab in this section for more detail about how trees can be used in Natural Flood Management.


Calder, I. R., & Aylward, B. (2006). Forest and floods: Moving to an evidence-based approach to watershed and integrated flood management. Water International, 31(1), 87-99.

Environment Agency’s Working with Natural Processes Research Framework –

WWF Scotland, 2007, Slowing the Flow: A natural solution to flooding problems, WWF, Denkeld