Beavers, crucial for biodiversity, against flooding


This 20214 BBC TV video from Britain says about itself:

Beavers Help Prevent Flooding

Beaver & rewilding have the answer to the UK’s flooding prover who.

As rivers across the UK are bursting their banks, another media storm has broken over who is responsible. Many farmers have come out attacking the lack of drainage and flood defences along rivers. But river scientists and ecological experts are pointing out that there is a deeper problem in our river catchments, which means putting in flood defence and dredging rivers could end up in catastrophic flooding further downstream, and a tragedy could unfold that could threaten human life.

Changes in farming and land use now means there is little flood plain left along our rivers, so there is nowhere for the water to go, this combined with a massive increase of drainage of farmland in river catchments means water now gushes off land into the rivers.

One of the best and cheapest answers is to reintroduce natural wetland species such as European beaver and wild horses to the UK and allow the natural restoration of nature’s own flood defences like the initiatives currently run by the Wildwood Trust near Canterbury.

The wetlands of Britain used to act as a giant sponge, soaking up rainfall and releasing it slowly into our rivers, protecting us from catastrophic flooding.

In recent times we have spent an increasing amount of money to destroy our wetlands, to build and maintain a massive system of drains at the taxpayer’s expense. The cruel irony is that ‘flood defences’ only make the problem worse further down the river. Planning has also encouraged the building of more and more housing on flood plains which then, in turn, need to be defended from inevitable flooding.

Successive governments have channeled hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money every year into agricultural subsidies and ‘drainage’ works that are directly responsible for the catastrophic flooding seen over the last few weeks.

Wildwood’s five point plan to save the taxpayer money and prevent catastrophic flooding in our towns & villages:

1. Rewild marginal farmland, uplands and floodplain. Just as many European countries have seen catastrophic flooding they have rewilded areas that act a giant sponges soaking up flood waters

2. Stop agricultural subsidy of marginal farmland so it can be returned to the wild & save the taxpayer billions of pounds

3. Return beavers and use natural wetland managers like wild horses to maintain our wetlands at no cost to taxpayers

4. Create natural wetland networks in urban areas to act as flood stores

5. Shift taxes off of earned incomes and onto land values and natural resources to make it economically feasible to revert marginal farmland back to natural areas.

Peter Smith, Wildwood Trust Chief Executive said:

Along the Rhine in the Netherlands and Germany they have already addressed this issue by re-creating wetlands, while at the same time providing safety for homes and communities.”

“It took the death of school children in a catastrophic flood event to shock the Dutch authorities to really tackle flooding on the Rhine; one of their answers was to stop farming on flood plain and to create a giant natural wetland, managed by wild horses, to prevent this tragedy from happening again.”

“When will Britain wake up and see that we need to tackle the root cause of the flooding problem and stop the squabbling by selfish vested interests only interested in getting the benefit of ever more taxpayers’ money or campaigning for flood waters to be rushed on further downstream to flood someone else’s house.”

“We have created a perverse system of agricultural subsidies and drainage systems that guarantee we will see flooding getting worse, and that system is using taxpayers’ money to destroy wildlife and the wild places that have been our natural flood defence system.”

“With no wetlands, trees or undeveloped flood plains to stop this water, it rushes off fields into drainage systems, maintained at the taxpayers’ expense, and is funnelled into rivers where it creates the devastating problems witnessed this winter.”

“We must stop wasting money on drainage schemes, agricultural subsidies and building in flood plains but rather spend, far less, taxpayers’ money on re-establishing natural wetlands.”

“This can be achieved for a fraction of cost that taxpayers are already incurring, save us billions in the future and will create a carbon sink to help neutralise climate change and give our future generations a natural heritage to be proud of.”

From the University of Stirling in Scotland:

Beaver reintroduction key to solving freshwater biodiversity crisis

August 26, 2019

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.

The research team surveyed water plants and beetles in 20 wetlands in a small area of southern Sweden — 10 created by beavers and 10 that were not — to understand whether beavers might provide a solution to the current biodiversity crisis by creating novel habitats.

Professor Willby added: “The loss of large mammals from modern landscapes is a global conservation concern. These animals are important in their own right, but our research emphasises the added biodiversity benefits that go with them.

“We are best reminded of this effect when large herbivores, such as beavers, are reintroduced to places where they have been lost.”

This research follows the team’s 2018 study that found that 33 percent more plant species and 26 percent more beetles were living in wetlands created by beavers, compared to those that were not. Another previous study, from 2017, showed that — over a period of 12 years — local plant richness in a Tayside wetland rose by 46 percent following the introduction of beavers. They created 195 metres of dams, 500 metres of canals and a hectare of ponds.

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