WILDLIFE BOOST

The rein­tro­duc­tion of the beaver into Scot­land could ben­e­fit a host of other wildlife, in­clud­ing many of our wa­ter­birds

Bird Watching (UK) - - News Wire - WORDS: JOHN MILES

FOL­LOW­ING THE TRIAL at Knap­dale, near Lochgilp­head, Ar­gyll, Scot­land, where 11 Beavers were re­leased from May 2009 on­wards and mon­i­tored un­til May 2014, the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment is due to make a de­ci­sion on whether to add the Beaver to the list of species to be in­tro­duced into Scot­land, fol­low­ing White-tailed Ea­gle and also Red Kite. Both those birds have brought a con­sid­er­able amount of rev­enue via wildlife tourism, an in­dus­try worth £64 mil­lion to the Scot­tish econ­omy. In Mull alone, up to £5 mil­lion was brought in by tourists’ in­tent on see­ing its White-tailed Ea­gles, and Dum­fries and Gal­loway’s ‘Red Kite Trail’ gen­er­ated £21 mil­lion over a 10-year pe­riod. Vis­it­ing the Knap­dale project, what was amaz­ing in the ar­eas of beaver ac­tiv­ity was that in most cases, you wouldn’t know they were there, un­less you spot­ted the ‘lodge’. The main tree species pre­ferred as food are Birch, wil­low, Rowan and Aspen, with cop­pic­ing no­table in one area show­ing good re­gen­er­a­tion. Thin­ning was ev­i­dent along public paths as well as, in one in­ci­dence, the creation of a ‘view­point’, adding to the vis­ual as­pect of the loch. Alder were wide­spread around many of the lochs with no real ev­i­dence of re­moval help­ing to make sure the lochs edges were in­tact and not erod­ing. Other food con­sisted of aquatic plants, with wa­ter lilies, angelica and iris favourites but, again, there seemed plenty still grow­ing around the ar­eas. Some might think it a shame the beavers do not like felling Sitka Spruce as a food, but that shows that ‘commercial’ trees like th­ese and oth­ers are not in the fir­ing line and that the Beavers would not dam­age a landowner’s commercial wood­lands. Out of the three pairs of Beavers present in 2016, two were in nat­u­ral lochs, with the other hav­ing moved to a small lochan, that had once been a larger area of wa­ter but was drained by the Forestry Com­mis­sion in the 1930s for plant­ing trees. The Beavers dammed the area and re­pro­duced the old loch, cre­at­ing a stand of dead Birch and wil­low trees, im­por­tant for many bor­ing bee­tles. The dam it­self, which uses mud, sticks and a large area of rock, has raised the wa­ter by two me­tres above the nor­mal level. They are true ‘eco-sys­tem en­gi­neers’, with their work help­ing to store wa­ter in years of drought and prevent­ing too much wa­ter in times of floods. This also helps to catch sed­i­ments, fer­tilis­ers and chem­i­cals, pro­tect­ing breed­ing ar­eas of Salmon, Brown Trout and other fish, too. When a dam is built, the new stretches of wa­ter ben­e­fit many other crea­tures, too. Sur­veys done as part of the trial have shown many new wa­ter bee­tles en­ter­ing the ar­eas cre­ated, along with many drag­on­flies and dam­sel­flies, not to men­tion the ben­e­fit to wa­ter­birds. The Teal, for ex­am­ple, is a rare breed­ing duck in many parts of Bri­tain, but ev­i­dence shows they like to breed be­hind new Beaver dams, along with other species such as grebes, Coot and geese; and waders use the new muddy edges that are cre­ated. The first young Beavers (kits) were born as early as 2010, show­ing the location for the trial was well picked, and Knap­dale is a now on the tourist trail thanks to the trial, with 80% of lo­cal folk want­ing the an­i­mals to stay as a tourist ini­tia­tive, and an in­cred­i­ble es­ti­mated 2.9 mil­lion peo­ple hav­ing gained from the ex­pe­ri­ence via the web, TV, so­cial me­dia and by vis­it­ing the area. All that re­mains is for the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment to de­cide to bring the Beaver back for good – as we en­ter 2017, we await the de­ci­sion ner­vously.

Sur­veys have shown many new wa­ter bee­tles en­ter­ing the ar­eas cre­ated, along with many drag­on­flies and dam­sel­flies, not to men­tion the ben­e­fit to wa­ter­birds

BEN­E­FITS Rein­tro­duc­ing beavers will pro­vide a boost to all wildlife, in­clud­ing many birds

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