Reintroduced beavers, once extinct in the UK, could damage the ecosystem?

British fisherman and a number of other people have argued that reintroducing beavers or allowing the beavers that are here to thrive would severely damage the river and its ecosystem.

This is a peculiar argument and must be categorically and thoroughly rejected. Beavers are a native part of the British ecosystem.

While some people might argue a dam looks untidy, they have positive impacts on the health of the river

Fisherman argue that beaver dams are not navigable by fish and that therefore they damage the fishing populations. This simply isn’t borne out by the facts. 

Beavers have been missing for several hundred years but this is a blink of an eye in terms of the ecological scale. Beavers are a natural part of the British river ecosystem and the fact that they are missing damages its natural behaviour. Indeed far from damaging fish populations, beaver ponds are phenomenally good nurseries for baby fish.

There have been a large number of ill thought out arguments from all sorts of people about the reintroduction of beavers, many of these are patently absurd and it is bizarre that they have been able to take a part in suggesting that beavers should not return.

One of the most ridiculous is the idea that beavers will eat fish. They are exclusively vegetarians – beavers do not eat fish.

Another one is the fish cannot navigate the dams – this is also generally false, in a study on the River Otter, dams contained 37% more fish than other comparable stretches of the river.

The simple fact is that beavers are a natural part of the UK ecosystem, they have survived that way for millennia and their reintroduction after several hundred years absence is simply not going to mean that they are an invasive species that will damage the British countryside. 

To the contrary the beavers will have many positive impacts on the river:

  • Their dams slow the process of the river and allow it to be as it more as it naturally should
  • The ponds that they create are phenomenally good for British insects and therefore provide more pollinators for fields that surround them
  • Fish benefit greatly from the the dams that provide stable ponds into which there fry can thrive and develop
  • The slowing of the river means that pollutants such as insecticides and fertilizers that have washed off farm land are caught by these dams and therefore the river water is cleaned
  • Beaver dams slow the spread of flash floods and river surges. This stops floodplains and and rivers breaking their banks – the UK has built on many of its flood plains in the last couple of decades.
  • While on occasion dams do mean that farmers lose a small portion of their land, the reduction in need for flood plains generally means that farmers have more land to use not less even if this advantage is not felt on the farm that loses land

If a decision is to be made on whether the British countryside can support beavers it must be decided on the basis of logic and evidence, not superstition. Indeed some of the arguments put forward by people who dislike their presence are so foolish it is hard to understand why they put it forward in the first place. For the health and wellbeing of the British countryside there are a number of species that we should bring back – any debate on this must be made in good faith and with real facts. Across Europe farmers make a good living with wildlife that British farmers say they cannot work alongside. This ranges from beavers to animals such as wolves and otters.

Let us examine this in a true logical fashion and work towards returning much of the biodiversity that humans have eliminated in the UK. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

See Animals Wild