Ea­ger for beavers

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

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

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