Icebergs from above

Rivers can help us cope with the climate crisis

Our movement plays a critical role in building climate resilient landscapes across the UK and Ireland.

The impacts of a changing climate will be felt first — and most dramatically — through our rivers and water resources. There is the potential for disaster at both ends of the scale: predictions suggest than the frequency and severity of both flooding and droughts will increase as our climate continues to heat up and weather patterns change.

By restoring rivers and the habitats which surround them, our movement is a key player in both mitigating against and adapting to climate change. Mitigatory measures actively tackle the changing climate by reducing the emission of greenhouse gases and increasing carbon uptake, whereas adaptive measures help us to cope with the effects that climate change will have—and has already had—on our environment.

Climate mitigation


We are tree planters

Planting trees enables more carbon dioxide to be drawn down from the atmosphere, reducing its warming effect. In 2020 alone, local Rivers Trusts planted 300,391 trees – one of our favourite nature-based solutions. When the right trees are planted in the right places, we can also improve biodiversity and enhance the natural water cycle, slowing down run-off, keeping soil on the land and stabilising river banks.

We are pollution fighters

By improving water quality in rivers, we reduce the amount of energy required to clean it for use in homes and businesses. In 2020, local Rivers Trusts addressed 630 water quality improvements and pollution events.

We are soil saviours

Soils store and hold carbon - and this ability increases when the soil is healthy. We work with farmers and landowners to maximise the soil's ability to sequester carbon. In 2020, we worked with 2,205 farms!

We are habitat makers

Our local Trusts create and restore wetlands – 62 in 2020, to be precise. These habitats can store huge amounts of carbon and act as natural filters, removing nutrients which can cause problems like algal blooms in open water downstream. The UK has lost 90% of our wetland habitats in the last 100 years, and reintroducing this habitat into our landscapes gives the many plants and animals that need them, a chance to flourish again.

Icon of a wetland in navy

Wetlands in 2020

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wetlands were created or restored by local Rivers Trusts in 2020

As well as mitigating against climate change directly, our Trusts carry out work which will help us to adapt to the changing climate. Flooding, for example, is likely to become more frequent and severe due to climate change. Unfortunately, we can’t do anything to prevent this from happening, but we can lessen the impact flooding has on our communities.

Climate adaptation


Holding back the flood

Flooding is likely to become more common and severe. We use Natural Flood Management (NFM) to reduce flood risk while also creating benefits for the environment.

Improving connectivity

Restoring rivers can increase connectivity between habitats, providing avenues for species to alter their distribution in response to climate change.

Cooling us down

With our cities set to get hotter, urban rivers can provide a vital cooling effect. We ensure that urban rivers are protected.

Icon depicting a flood

NFM schemes 2020

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natural flood risk management schemes were put in place by local Rivers Trusts in 2020

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