Since the government announced a five-year trial to reintroduce beavers into the wild, more areas within England have been getting involved. Almost 400 years after beaver extinction in the UK, the government has realised the advantages of beavers within our ecosystem and committed plans to reintroduce them.
In the 16th century, beavers became extinct in the UK due to hunting for their fur, meat, and glands. Recently, beavers were successfully reintroduced in parts of Scotland. As local and national governments realise the beneficial environmental effects of beavers, they are now also being reintroduced to areas of England, including Somerset, Cumbria, and Norfolk.
Wildlife trusts in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire are set to release twenty beavers into the wild to help combat the issue of flooding. The Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust is hoping to introduce 4 beavers to a secure beaver enclosure at their Idle Valley Nature Reserve in Retford, Nottinghamshire.
Beavers drastically impact their environment by making changes to their habitat
Since Nottingham is at an increased risk of flooding, beavers can have a massive effect on preventing flooding and the environmental, financial, and social repercussions that flooding causes.
Reintroducing beavers is not just about increasing a locally extinct species but also about protecting and improving the current ecosystem. The massive change that beavers have on their environment has earned them the name of ‘ecosystem engineers’. Beavers drastically impact their environment by making changes to their habitat.
First, beavers gnaw at stems, causing them to cut back trees to ground level, stimulating their growth. This regrowth provides habitats to multiple insects and birds.
Second, beavers change the wetlands in which they live. They dig canal systems and dam watercourses. Not only do these changes benefit species such as otters, birds, and breeding fish, they also help people. Beavers reduce downstream flooding through the dams and channels that they create. As well as increasing water retention, they also clean water by reducing siltation.
The wetlands that beavers create act as sponges, resulting in more constant flows and retaining water during droughts. Leaky dams that beavers create can reduce the change of flash flooding, most relevant to Nottinghamshire.
The destruction of arable land and crops could become more likely
However, it is essential to acknowledge the repercussions of beaver introduction to Nottingham. Complaints about beavers have mostly come from landowners and anglers.
Particularly for farmers, beavers pose threats to food production. Concerns about beavers undermining riverbanks, impeding drainage through damming, and causing crop damage, have worried farmers. Consequently, the destruction of arable land and crops could become more likely.
Anglers are also worried about the impact of beavers on the fishing industry. The creation of damns can have negative effects on fishing through fish migration and dispersal. Additionally, beaver damming could close off spawning areas for valuable fish species, like salmon.
While beaver reintroduction has many positive effects, it is essential to acknowledge the drawbacks to construct strategies to tackle these issues.
Overall, the benefits of beaver introduction into wildlife outweigh the drawbacks if managed effectively. If successful, beaver reintroduction will have beneficial effects on our environment and community. The Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust website outlines multiple ways that locals can help the cause, including making donations, becoming members, and educating themselves about the issue.
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