Learn how beavers can help prevent our homes from flooding
Beavers are brilliant builders, engineering complex dams to slow streams, create deep pools and construct their lodges. To avoid predators, they often work under the cover of darkness, making monitoring tricky for ecologists, but Professor Tom Brereton, who is Director of Research at MARINElife has put a trail cam up on the River Brit to monitor two captive red beavers recently released by the new land owner, Dr Tarsha Finne and her partner, near the original River Cottage site. Their aim is to rewild this lovely corner of Dorset and to see if beavers can help mitigate flooding in the local area.
Historically, humans have been the biggest threat to beavers. We hunted them to extinction around 400 years ago for their thick pelts, their meat and a gland which has secretions which was favoured for use in perfumes and medicines. Today the beavers have a different value, as a natural architect of a more biodiverse landscape.
Beavers dams, particularly in a flooding event, when we get heavy rain, have proven to slow down the overflow of water by spreading it out over the landscape. The issue with the Brit is that it’s flooding down into Bridport and flooding homes, so the punt that we’re all taking is if we get beavers in the tribute trees and the upstream, that’s going to start influencing the way water is moving downstream. These are the things Tom’s team is trying to measure to demonstrate how it would have worked historically and the impact reintroducing it can have on the future.
Beavers are working for us. They’re ecological engineers creating a flood mitigation project and they’re doing it with a sensitivity and surgical precision that humans can’t easily replicate. The result of their work also create biodiversity, food and habitats for other species like bats and birds.