More good news from Britain, where Louise’s article in the Ecologist just keeps echoing. This one is from the Mammal Society on Smallholder. If you’re looking for a competent summary of beaver benefits all in one convenient place, this provides just about the best collected arguments I’ve seen. Bookmark the page and enjoy!
In the aftermath of the recent severe flooding in parts of lowland Britain, with adverse impacts upon the lives and businesses of thousands of people, The Mammal Society has urged the government to consider a”bold and cost-effective” wildlife solution as part of its overall flood defence response: bring back the beaver and allow it to apply its benign engineering skills to our river systems.
Beaver activities have multiple physical and chemical repercussions for streams and rivers and the benefits of beaver dams can be considerable, vastly outweighing any minor, localised negative impacts. Water velocity and associated erosive forces are greatly reduced while large quantities of water are retained within surface, soil and groundwater compartments; this leads to attenuation of ‘flash flood’ phenomena as the stored water takes longer to travel through the catchment. ‘Beaver rivers’ do not exhibit such high and low extremes of discharge, which is regulated more evenly throughout the year, alleviating both floods and droughts.
Beaver dam building also improves water quality, through retention of sediments, organic carbon and pollutants; this could significantly reduce the cost of water purification for water companies.
Lastly, beaver rivers exhibit increased hydrological and morphological complexity and connectivity, and provide greatly enhanced opportunities for many different plants and animals, including invertebrates, fish, amphibians, birds and semi-aquatic mammals; biodiversity is significantly improved and, as a consequence, is likely to be more resilient to the effects of climate change. Recent studies in the United States have indicated that the economic benefits of beaver reintroduction into a river catchment, in terms of water storage, regulation of water flows, sediment retention and water purification is likely to run into many millions of dollars annually, and many projects are underway to re-establish the similar North American beaver into degraded river catchments throughout the country”
Oh what a glorious couple of paragraphs! It’s nice to see folks doing their homework and learning about beaver benefits. Let’s hope they are well into their tutorial by the times beavers actually bring themselves back on a grander scale. I think it really doesn’t matter much whether the country ‘decides’ to reintroduce beavers or not. Just like it doesn’t matter whether you ‘decide’ your teenager will become sexually active.
It’s going to happen anyway. All you can do is educate as much as possible. Here’s their handy bullet list:
- Beavers exert many positive effects on ecosystem functioning including:
- Regulation of stream flows
- Flood alleviation
- Increased water storage and raised water table
- Sediment retention and sorting
- Reduction in erosion and decreased turbidity
- Improved hydrological connectivity within and between surface and groundwaters
- Increased hydrological & morphological diversity
- Improved lateral connectivity between channel & floodplain
- Increased nutrient cycling
- Improved acid-neutralising capacity
- Carbon retention, pollutant retention and water purification
And on biological diversity:
- Increase in habitat heterogeneity
- Increase in species richness and diversity
- Increase in aquatic, transition and deadwood habitats
- Increase in open canopy riparian habitats and improved riparian understorey
- Increased in-stream woody debris
- Improved habitat for invertebrates, fish, amphibians, birds and semi-aquatic mammals
- Improved connectivity and resilience
Virgine St. Jean is the clever artist behind Green Banana Cards. She’s from from Ontario Canada and has crafted a brilliant idea for ordinary postcards. Her “Mail A Beaver” invention has morphed into “mail a lobster”, “‘mail a wolf” and “mail a panda”, missives that are a snap for travel sales. The card wryly notes “It has become increasingly difficult to clear airport security with a standard beaver” and offers a pragmatic solution. She sent a generous stack our way for the auction. Imagine how nice it will be to send some postcards to friends telling them you attended a beaver festival!