Five years of beavers bring big biodiversity and flooding benefits - Cornwall Wildlife Trust

beaver climbing out of water with large branch in its mouth to add to the partially constructed dam
Beaver dam building activity, (photo: David Parkyn & Cornwall Wildlife Trust)

Beavers could play a major role in combating flooding and biodiversity loss in the South West, according to findings shared today (17/6) by Cornwall Wildlife Trust and Beaver Trust. The wildlife organisations are calling for carefully considered wild releases of beavers to be taken forward to support wider beaver conservation efforts.

Researchers and wildlife recorders studying the beaver population at Woodland Valley Farm, home of the Cornwall Beaver Project, found the semi-aquatic animals have slowed river flow, created habitat for other native species and attracted thousands of visitors to the site through educational activities.

New beaver-created wetlands and ponds have led to a significant improvement in biodiversity. Thirteen species of bird and mammal that were previously absent from the site have now been recorded. This includes the willow tit, the UK’s most threatened resident bird having declined 94% since the 1970s, and the pole cat, a species once on the brink of extinction in Britain during the early 20th century.

Cheryl Marriott, Head of Conservation at Cornwall Wildlife Trust, said: “After five years of habitat engineering by the beavers, the landscape at Woodland Valley Farm is now completely unrecognisable from its initial state. They’ve breathed new life into this habitat and their natural dam-building behaviour has delivered lots of benefits for both wildlife and people. It’s amazing what can happen when you let nature look after itself, without the need for humans to manage it. With the ever more extreme weather events that we’re getting, beavers give us hope that our streams and all the wildlife that relies on them can adapt to the changes. We must use their natural ‘superpowers’ in the sustainable, long-term restoration of our wetlands.”

The beavers’ activities have also had a positive influence on the local area. University of Exeter scientists on the project team have recorded dramatic changes in water flow, thanks to the site’s dams and seven large ponds. The dams hold water in dry periods, helping to cut drought and subsequent flash flooding, reduce erosion and improve water quality.

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Posted On: 17/06/2022

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