This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book. Water Level Management Beaver

Adrian Lloyd Jones, Project Coordinator Welsh Beaver Project c/o North Wales Wildlife Trust

The Welsh Beaver Project is investigating the feasibility of undertaking a managed reintroduction of beavers to Wales for the multi-fold benefits their presence can afford to wildlife, the environment and the economy.

There are many myths surrounding beavers and their impacts, and this often stifles rational debate about their reintroduction, so knowing the facts is crucial to making decisions about this ‘keystone’ species.

Beavers are natural managers of rivers and wetlands, performing ‘ecosystem services’ that can assist many other species including humans. They are herbivores, eating only vegetation, coppicing bankside trees, creating glades and enabling woodland and aquatic

Reintroduction an opinion from the Welsh Beaver Project

plants to flourish. These habitats provide enhanced living space for insects, fish, birds, amphibians and mammals.

Beavers only dam smaller streams, and tend to do so only when the more favourable territories (which do not require damming) have been occupied. The resulting pool mosaics provide a complexity of wildlife habitats. The significantly greater population of aquatic

invertebrates these promote can provide a restorational resource for impoverished riparian systems. Evidence from Europe and elsewhere shows that beaver dams pose little problem to migratory fish stocks. Many of the micro-environments they create - large submerged dead wood, branch bundles, bank-side burrows and clefts - provide lays for large game fish such as Atlantic salmon and refugia for fry.

Their dam structures can be managed or removed by humans as required using a range of established techniques. These environments function as natural sponges which retain water during prolonged dry periods when instream levels are low. They can dissipate and absorb the sudden flows associated with flood events. This function helps to reduce bank erosion, trap sediment and capture nutrients. It naturally cleans rivers. In 2009 South West Water developed a project to utilise this natural process to capture nutrient rich silts leaching through tributaries from the surrounding agricultural landscapes into their strategically important Roadford Reservoir. Although supported by their board this venture failed as a result of opposition from local protest groups.

Beavers tend to stay close to water, and dislike wandering far from it, with 95% of activity occurring within 10m of the water’s edge, so any adverse impact on land-use is limited. They do not readily move between catchments. Beavers are a highly territorial species. Their populations are also naturally capped by habitat availability with many dispersing 2 year olds dying as a result of fights with territorial holders. This process ensures that their numbers are limited by the availability of suitable living environment and cannot develop in an uncontrollable fashion.

Beavers sometimes cause localised problems that require management. Dams can be built in the ‘wrong’ place causing ponds to develop and unwanted tree felling can occur. There are, however, well established, low- cost solutions to these issues so

Photo by: Duncan Halley. 34

Photo by: Rob Parry

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