Beaver trials – as expected, benefiting ecosystem

There are a large number of different trials going on around the country into whether it is feasible to reintroduce Beavers and what they would do in the places that they would return. This question is important to answer for several reasons. The first of these is that there is a legal requirement in the EU to consider reintroducing any species that has been made locally extinct by humans. While we are leaving the EU this directive is actually a very good thing and therefore is worth following. The second reason that this question needs answering is because in places like the Tyne river basin in Scotland a large number of beavers have escaped and live in the wild and it is important to work out whether this is something that we wish to encourage or to reverse.

There are a couple of trials that are currently going on in the UK. One of these is on the River Otter in Devon. It consists of a family of beavers that escaped from somewhere but it is not known where from. Given this the government announced that they must be captured to be tested to make sure that they are not carriers of various illnesses that are not currently a problem in the UK. The uproar in the local community occurred because the government says that having tested these beavers regardless of their state they would be kept in captivity. Given that they had stated that it was essential the beavers were captured to test it seems completely unacceptable for the government to make it impossible for the beavers to be left as an experiment. After a lot of local uproar for the government did indeed agree to we leave them alone to see what happens. As is entirely predictable these beavers have done exceptionally well. They have created a series of 13 dams which between them have stopped as much as 100 tons of soil from local farms being washed further down the river. Doing water tests has also shown that the water beneath the dam is dramatically cleaner, particularly with many chemicals used by farmers virtually completely undetectable below the dams.

Before the beavers set up home on the river, the riverbank was heavily populated by many different species of tree and while these trees were very healthy, they don’t allow a lot of light through to the water and this has an impact on the plant and insect life in the water. This obviously has a large impact on the wildlife that the River can support and therefore on the health of the entire ecosystem. After the beavers returned that stretch of the river has become a mass of lopsided willows and aspens with far more light and a great deal more insects and mammals present.

The land covered by the beavers dam is roughly 3 hectares, which will be a tiny amount of most farmers land. Furthermore, as this area is so full of insects the  pollination of the farmers crops is likely to be far better. Beavers also are some of the best tools we have in fighting flooding, they slow the flood water down which makes large floods far less common. As such it is likely that while local areas may suffer a small loss in farmland locally, as an area there will be more usable land Рfloodplains will be in use less often.

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