Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Weatherwatch: Bring back the beaver!

The Guardian, Sunday 23 March 2014 21.31 GMT

Beavers could be one answer to many of Britain's flooding problems. It sounds a crazy idea – after all, beavers make dams that create their own floods. But beavers build their dams on small shallow streams and rivers, and these mini-reservoirs slow down the flow of water feeding into larger rivers, which helps to cut major flooding during heavy downpours of rain.

The problem this winter with much of the flooding was land drainage, dredging and straightening of rivers that all speeded up the flow of water into rivers and made them more likely to flood.

Unfortunately beavers simply aren't widely appreciated for their engineering and water management skills. There is also a popular misconception that beavers are foreign wildlife that only come from North America. In fact, our native European beaver lived here for thousands of years before it was hunted to extinction for its fur and oil a few centuries ago. Recently, however, three new beaver colonies have become established in the wild, one in Devon and two in Scotland, and a review of one of the Scottish colonies is expected next year before a decision is made on whether to make further reintroductions.

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