A five-year study by the River Otter Beaver Trial in Devon has demonstrated that beavers bring numerous quantifiable benefits to both wildlife and people.
For example, the dams constructed by one beaver family were shown to slow the flow of floodwater through a downstream village, reducing “peak flows” during flood events. In addition, the beavers were shown to play a significant role in filtering pollutants including manure, slurry and fertilisers from the river. Furthermore, the new areas of wetland habitat created by the beavers brought significant ecological benefits, with boosted populations of fish, amphibians and wildfowl recorded in the study area.
The recently published report also highlights some associated costs, such as minor flooding of small areas of farmland, but concludes that, overall, the benefits of beaver activity outweigh the costs. It also states that those who benefit from beaver reintroduction may not always be the same people as those who bear the costs, and so appropriate compensation would need to be provided in order to successfully reintroduce beavers into the wider landscape.
The River Otter Beaver Trial began after beavers were discovered to be living on the River Otter after escape from captivity in 2013. The trial will run until September 2020, when DEFRA will decide whether the wild-living beavers can stay.
The records centre is currently involved with mapping beaver activity at the Spain’s Hall Beaver Enclosure in Finchingfield, after the introduction of a pair last spring. Significant changes can already be seen in the enclosure and it will be fascinating to draw parallels with this report's findings as the busy beaver pair continue to work hard felling trees and building dams.
You can read the full report here.