This has been another wet winter of big downpours and flooding, but that should come as no surprise. Winters in the UK are turning increasingly wet and climate change predictions point to even wetter winters and record-breaking rainfalls in the future.
Flooding from these rains is not inevitable, though. More than 5m homes in England are at risk of flooding, and yet one in 10 new homes are being built in high-risk flood areas. These are largely flood plains, typically flat, low-lying land around rivers that would naturally waterlog like a sponge, creating a mosaic of wetlands that help soak up the water that would flood elsewhere. Flood plains also store huge amounts of carbon, as plants absorb carbon dioxide and their dead remains lock away the carbon in the soil.
Huge swathes of wetlands have been drained, dug up and built over. One study found that intensive agriculture alone had destroyed about 64% of floodplains in England between 1990 and 2015. The study found that wetland areas around the UK had been devastated, with these fundamental flood plain units all but lost.