Five years of beaver activity reduces impact of flooding - Environment Agency

The family of 11 beavers has created 9 dams which slow the flow of river water. Photo: Spains Hall Estate
The family of 11 beavers has created 9 dams which slow the flow of river water. Photo: Spains Hall Estate

Second-largest rodent thriving in Essex

A project to reintroduce beavers to East Anglia has successfully reduced the impact of flooding and drought by storing millions of litres of water over 5 years.

Five years ago, Spains Hall Estate in Essex and the Environment Agency released the first pair of beavers in East Anglia for more than 400 years. With free reign across a 10-acre woodland stream, the beaver family, now numbering 11, has created 9 dams. These are estimated to store 3 million litres of water in ponds covering almost a quarter of the woodland.

An animation produced by catchment-scientists from AtkinsRéalis reveals the scale and speed of the changes occurring over 5 years.

Data collected by Kings College London demonstrates that the way water flows across the farm has also changed. The beavers increasingly building bigger dams to trap more water each time it rains. These changes mean that storm water flows downstream more slowly, some even being held for several months as it’s slowly released back into the river. This helps alleviate low river water levels in summer.

Matt Butcher, local Environment Agency catchment manager, said: “We are delighted that the beavers have thrived and improved the landscape. Their work has demonstrated that nature-based solutions can be used to tackle challenges in smaller river catchments. We initially supported this work as a pilot study and have been really impressed with the results. We have since helped the estate scale-up their beaver activity through more direct support, along with other partners. This has enabled the construction of two much larger beaver enclosures.”

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Posted On: 28/03/2024

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