PATTISON, I. and LANE, S.N., 2012. The link between land-use management and fluvial flood risk: a chaotic conception? Progress in Physical Geography, 36 (1), pp.72-92.
There is much policy interest in the possible linkages that might exist between land use and downstream fluvial flood risk. On the one hand, this position is sustained by observations from plot- and field-scale studies that suggest land management does affect runoff. On the other, upscaling these effects to show that landmanagement activities impact upon flood risk at larger catchment scales has proved to be elusive. This review considers the reasons for why this upscaling is problematic. We argue that, rather than it reflecting methodological challenges associated with the difficulties of modelling hydrological processes over very large areas and during extreme runoff events, it reflects the fact that any linkage between land management and flood risk cannot be generalized and taken out of its specific spatial (catchment) and temporal (flood event) context. Weuse Sayer’s (1992) notion of a ‘chaotic conception’ to describe the belief that there is a simple and general association between land management and downstream flood risk rather than the impacts of land management being spatially and temporally contingent in relation to the particular geographical location, time period and scale being considered. Our argument has important practical consequences because it implies that land-management activities to reduce downstream flood risk will be different to traditional flood-reduction interventions such as levees. The purpose of demonstration projects then needs careful consideration such that conclusions made for one project are not transferred uncritically to other scales of analysis or geographical locations.