Eager for beavers
THE return of beavers could benefit the environment, according to the University of Exeter. In 2011, the Devon Wildlife Trust reintroduced two young Eurasian beavers into the Tamar headwaters.
‘Beavers need deep water, so we put them in a small river course to see what impact they would have on English lowland,’ explains Stephen Hussey of the Devon Wildlife Trust, which, with Exeter academics, has found the colony’s impact to be greater than anticipated. ‘Beaver dams reduce downstream flooding by slowing the flow of water,’ says Richard Brazier, Professor of Earth-surface Processes at Exeter.
The system of ponds and dams built by beavers also improves water quality (by trapping pollutants) and supports wildlife. ‘In the six years since the trial began, frogspawn clumps have increased from 11 to about 650, leading to more predators, including herons and egrets,’ explains Prof Brazier.
However, some question the wisdom of the beavers’ return. ‘Farmers must have the tools to manage the impact beavers will have to farmland, the countryside, flood defences and urban areas,’ notes Mark Pope, who chairs the NFU’S environment forum. But Prof Brazier is convinced that his study makes a strong case for the rodents’ return. ‘Although beavers can have a negative impact—pushing water onto floodplains, for example—the reintroduction of these animals would bring more benefits than drawbacks.’ CP