Press Release: Community Forests International releases new report on forests and flooding

By Monica Allaby, Posted on June 15, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, June 22, 2021

New report from Community Forests International shows that forests could play an important role in reducing flood-risk in New Brunswick

Sackville, NB: Community Forests International today released a new report titled, Forests and Floods: Natural Infrastructure for a Green Recovery, which highlights the important role that forests could play in reducing flood-risk in New Brunswick and similarly impacted regions in Canada. The report is part of a larger organization initiative—and a wider movement in the sector—to establish a clear economic case for protecting forests for the ecosystem services they provide to nearby communities, including flood mitigation.

“Healthy forests provide essential water purification and flood mitigation services by slowing and filtering snow-melt and rain run-off,” says Megan de Graaf, a forest ecologist and the organization’s Forest Program Director. “Forests can help protect us from extreme weather events, but we have to protect them first.”

Since 2018, Community Forests International has been working to understand how forests might play a role in mitigating flooding in the Saint John River Valley. The new report looks specifically at the Canaan-Washademoak Watershed, which flows into the Lower Wolastoq (Saint John River), one of the most flood-prone regions in New Brunswick. Community Forests International conducted a hydrologic analysis of peak flow for 350 acres of mature Acadian forest under its stewardship along the Canaan River.

The organization found that the cost of replacing the water regulation services provided by the forest, if it were removed, would require catchment ponds exceeding 25,900 cubic meters, approximately the size of 10 Olympic sized swimming pools. The construction of these catchment ponds would amount to more than $1,000,000—almost three times the price of the timber on the property, according to the organization’s timber inventory.

“Our findings show that not only do forests absorb and hold water in flood events, conserving forests can actually be cheaper than building flood mitigation infrastructure like catchment ponds,” said de Graaf. The organization’s timber inventory for the property calculates that  cutting the forest would be worth only $285,715 in comparison to the cost of replacing the forest with catchment ponds. While the report demonstrates the extraordinary value of mature forests for their potential influence on flooding, this report does not quantify the other important services that intact forests provide, such as wildlife habitat, soil stabilization, and carbon storage, among others.

“The focus of the conversation about using forests to safeguard the climate is on the mitigation side—it highlights how forests can help us slow the impacts of climate change,” said Daimen Hardie, Executive Director of Community Forests International. “But this project highlights how those same forests could also contribute to local climate resilience, more on the adaptation side—it shows how forests support communities by directly protecting them against the impacts of climate change.”

The project is funded by Intact Financial Corporation.

“The work of Community Forests International demonstrates that forests are critical infrastructure — acting as sponges to absorb and slowly release snowmelt and rainfall,” said Diane Flanagan, Vice President, Corporate Affairs and Communications at Intact Financial Corporation and Chair of the Intact Foundation. “We’re thankful for Community Forests International’s leadership in accelerating the business case of natural infrastructure in protecting communities from climate change.”

Quick Facts

  • Community Forests International’s new report shares findings from a hydrologic study conducted on 350 acres of mature Acadian forest along the Canaan River, which drains into the Wolastoq (Saint John) River Watershed.
  • The organization found that for a 1:100-year storm event, where climate change increases rainfall intensity by 20%, built infrastructure in the form of catchment ponds would need to exceed 25,900 cubic meters to replace the peak flow attenuation services of the forest in the study area alone.
  • The cost of catchment ponds that would be required to hold the water that is otherwise absorbed by the property would cost more than $1,000,000.
  • The cost of replacing the flood mitigation services provided by the property far outweighs the cost of the timber, which is estimated at $285,000.

About Community Forests International: Community Forests International works to protect and restore the climate by enabling communities and forests to thrive together. The organization has protected more than 2,700 acres of forest in New Brunswick.

Media Contact

Monica Allaby, Communications Advisor at Community Forests International

To download the report, please click here.