In 16th Century Britain the Eurasian Beaver (Castor fiber) was sadly hunted to extinction for its fur, meat and scent glands.
Beavers are known as a keystone species or ecosystem engineers, meaning that they benefit the area around them. This has resulted in projects across the UK trialling the re-introduction of beavers to the wild starting with large enclosures at nature reserves.
- Creation of dams and ditches which aids in the formation of wetland habitat
- Wetland habitat holds more water in the landscape which filters silt and agricultural chemicals from the water
- Wetlands are crucial to combatting climate change due to the capturing and storage of carbon and the reduction of greenhouse gases
- Reduction of flooding
- Encouraging new species into the area, increasing biodiversity
- Changes in vegetation composition and diversity
(Summarised from current project information by the Wildlife Trusts.)
Consideration for the wider release of beavers into the wild is now able to take a step forward with DEFRA announcing legal protection for the species from October 2022 in an amendment to the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations (2017). This protects the species itself and the area in which they breed, with only licenced individuals allowed to cause any form of disturbance.
Before the legislation comes into effect, work needs to be carried out with landowners and environmentalists to ensure that guidance is there to provide reassurance for any potential negative impact to farmland and the incentives for having beavers on their land. Guidance is currently being developed by Natural England to ensure that any licences can be issued sensibly as and when required.
This comes at an exciting time, not only as it is a success for continuing the reintroduction of the species into the wild but also for the protection of beaver kits being born this year in Cheshire, Derbyshire and Dorset.
Let’s hope for more good news in the future and the chance to see beavers back in the wild!