Extreme weather events have long been the subject of dramatic pictures, the topic of news bulletins, and a source of much heated debate. The potential consequences to society and the economy are of great concern as scientists grapple with the unpredictable nature of climate patterns and change in our environment. Recent events have demonstrated the UK’s exposure to environmental extremes with significant loss to the economy. Insured losses from flooding and severe weather events in England have cost an average £1.1 billion per year over the past twenty years and in 2007 widespread flooding affected 55,000 homes at an estimated cost to the economy of £3.2 billion.
Human activities contribute to these hydrological shifts, such as the upstream deforestation and the drainage of wetlands for agriculture and development. There is increasing recognition that efficient and effective management of ecosystems can sustain the provision of vital services such as water supply, recreation and leisure, and flood alleviation.
The recently published UK Water Partnership report on Droughts & Floods – Towards a More Holistic Approach (2015), reviews recent UK investments on some of the scientific challenges posed by floods and droughts and the take up and implementation of the research outputs, in the context of these societal needs. It looks at the implications for business sectors and the potential for economic exploitation and sets out ten key findings and five recommendations, aimed at the UK Water Partnership, research councils, and policymakers. Crucially it recommends a more holistic environmental approach to flooding and drought research, innovation and implementation, which in turn would help open up a range of ecosystem-related markets.