Bringing the Beaver Back to Britain (or: Beaver? I Hardly Knew Her!)

So I went slightly crazy this week, and the good people of the Twitterverse diagnosed me with BEAVER FEVER. Not the tummy rumbles kind, though; the fun and adorable kind (see below)!

beaver-baby

Indeed, the first wild beaver spotted in England in 500+ years was seen this week, skulking around a Devon farm in the town of Ottery St. Mary (it has since been suggested the name change to Beavery St. Mary).

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This is thrilling on several fronts. First of all, beavers are a delight.


Second, they’re a critical part of healthy riparian ecosystems in their native habitats, and they act as ecosystem engineers (a term that’s a tad overused, but useful in casu), making major modification to the water dynamics of riverine systems and thus impacting the flora, fauna, and fluvia (?) around them.

Beavers in the Ecosystem, from KIS Ecology
Beavers in the Ecosystem, from KIS Ecology

Third, we (and by ‘we,’ I mean ‘other scientists, but I wholeheartedly support them and cheer them on from a distance and via twitter’) have been working hard to get beavers reintroduced to the United Kingdom for about 15 years. A trial run was begun in Scotland in 2009, but ideas of expansion have met with some opposition.

Conservationists from the Scottish Beaver Trial, 2009

So having a real, live, wild beaver roaming around the English countryside is not only a fascinating natural experiment, but it’s also an opportunity for wildlifers to show the general public that they have little to fear from these industrious animals.

Go, Beavers!

Beaver_Yearling_Grooming_Alhambra_Creek_2008
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A Little Further Reading:
Andersen, Douglas C., and Patrick B. Shafroth. “Beaver dams, hydrological thresholds, and controlled floods as a management tool in a desert riverine ecosystem, Bill Williams River, Arizona.” Ecohydrology 3.3 (2010): 325-338.

Conroy, J. W. H., and A. C. Kitchener. “The Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) in Scotland: a review of the literature and historical evidence.” SNH REVIEW (1996).

Wright, Justin P., Clive G. Jones, and Alexander S. Flecker. “An ecosystem engineer, the beaver, increases species richness at the landscape scale.” Oecologia 132.1 (2002): 96-101.

Jones, Clive G., John H. Lawton, and Moshe Shachak. “Organisms as ecosystem engineers.” Oikos (1994): 373-386.

Smith, Michael E., et al. “Modification of stream ecosystem structure and function by beaver (Castor canadensis) in the Adirondack Mountains, New York.” Canadian Journal of Zoology 69.1 (1991): 55-61.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. GarryRogers says:

    Beavers are great flood-control engineers. I pinned, tweeted, and scooped your post (see the scoop at http://scoop.it/t/ecoscifi).
    Thank you.
    Garry

  2. Thanks, Garry! Glad you enjoyed the read. 🙂

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