Thursday, 29 August 2019

Beaver reintroduction key to solving freshwater biodiversity crisis


Date: August 26, 2019
Source: University of Stirling

Reintroducing beavers to their native habitat is an important step towards solving the freshwater biodiversity crisis, according to experts at the University of Stirling.

New research from the Faculty of Natural Sciences has provided further support to previous work that has shown beavers have an important impact on the variety of plant and animal life.

The latest study, led by Dr Alan Law and Professor Nigel Willby, found that the number of species only found in beaver-built ponds was 50 percent higher than other wetlands in the same region.

Dr Law, Lecturer in Biological and Environmental Sciences, said: "Beavers make ponds that, at first glance, are not much different from any other pond. However, we found that the biodiversity -- predominantly water plants and beetles -- in beaver ponds was greater than and surprisingly different from that found in other wetlands in the same region.

"Our results also emphasise the importance of natural disturbance by big herbivores -- in this case, tree felling, grazing and digging of canals by beavers -- in creating habitat for species which otherwise tend to be lost.

"Reintroducing beavers where they were once native should benefit wider biodiversity and should be seen as an important and bold step towards solving the freshwater biodiversity crisis."

Beavers are one of the only animals that can profoundly engineer the environment that they live in -- using sticks to build dams across small rivers, behind which ponds form. Beavers do this to raise water levels to avoid predators, such as wolves and bears: however, numerous other plants and animals also benefit from their work.

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