Land-cover change (urbanisation, deforestation, and cultivation) results in increased flood frequency and severity. Mechanisms include reduced infiltration capacity, lower soil porosity, loss of vegetation, and forest clearing, meaning lower evapotranspiration. Major research challenges lie in quantification of effects in terms of flood characteristics under various conditions, ascertaining the combined effects of gradual changes over long time periods, and developing model tools suitable for land-use management. Large floods during the 1990s gave a new focus on these problems. Reference is made to the Norwegian HYDRA research programme on human impacts on floods and flood damage.

The paper concludes that land-use change effects on floods are most pronounced at small scale and for frequent flood magnitudes. Model simulations of effects of land-use change can now be used to reduce flood risk. Modern flood management strategies have abandoned the position that dams and dikes are the only answers to mitigating flood disasters. Today, the strategic approach is more often: do not keep the water away from the people, keep people away from the water. Flood management strategies should include flood warnings, efficient communication, risk awareness, civil protection and flood preparedness routines, effective land-use policies, flood risk mapping, … as well as structural measures.

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