tree planting

Planting trees for water

Trees are one of the most important aspects of the riparian landscape. When planted in the right place, they provide multiple benefits for people, nature, and wildlife.

Helping our rivers to thrive again isn’t just about changing the water itself. Rivers and land are co-existent and co-dependent, so if we take a catchment-based approach to improve land management, river health will follow. This in turn will benefit the whole landscape.

The need to take a catchment wide approach to tree planting and ensure that the right trees are being established in the right place and at the scale and pace that is required is why we are founding members of the Riverscapes partnership and so pleased to be leading on the new Woodlands for Water project ( link) with Defra

For trees to contribute to nature's recovery, it is vital to take a catchment-wide approach to planting them. This will ensure that the right trees are put in the right place, at the scale and pace required. As one of the founding members of the Riverscapes partnership and a lead partner on the Woodlands for Water Project with Defra we embody this, and are committed to delivering landscape-scale action for nature in the near future.

Here are some of the amazing benefits of trees:

Improves water quality

  • Planting the right trees or hedges in the right place can significantly reduce the amount of diffuse and point source pollution running off land and into rivers
  • Tree roots can help bind soil together, reducing the chances of sedimentation running into rivers

Bank stabilisation

  • The chances of bank collapse are reduced by trees binding the soil together
  • Wood from local trees can also be used to help reverse erosion

Natural Flood Management

  • Trees planted along rivers can absorb extra water and mitigate flooding
  • They can intercept heavy rainfall, reducing the speed at which surface runoff reaches the river
  • Felled trees form a vital component of ‘leaky dams’, and trees which naturally fall into the watercourse can deliver a similar impact
  • The underground networks created by tree roots contribute to higher infiltration rates of soils, meaning that is absorbed into the soil and recharges aquifers rather than running into rivers and potentially causing floods

Carbon sequestration

  • Trees are the ultimate nature-based solution to climate change, locking up carbon through photosynthesis
  • This reduces the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, effectively tackling global warming

Healthy Habitats

  • Trees and wooded areas form vital habitats for wildlife
  • They also provide shade, preventing rivers from getting too hot for the species living in them
  • As we are living through a global biodiversity crisis, creating and connecting new habitats for wildlife is more important than ever

What does The Rivers Trust have to do with trees?

Icon depicting tree planting

Trees planted


trees planted by local Rivers Trusts in 2022-23

In 2022, the Rivers Trust movement planted more than 340,000 trees, using our expertise to ensure they go where they’re most needed, and engaging local communities across the UK and Ireland to get the job done. It’s particularly vital for trees to be allowed to grow alongside rivers, the backbone of the landscape.

Our vision is to create a network of wildlife corridors along all the rivers in the UK, including a significant increase in the amount of strategic tree planting alongside all rivers and across all catchments to deliver multiple benefits.

Case Studies

Explore projects from across The Rivers Trust movement using tree planting to restore river catchments.

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