Beavers arrive for Yorkshire trial
Forestry England has brought a pair of Eurasian beavers from Scotland to Cropton Forest in Yorkshire for a revolutionary trial in natural flood management.
Spanning five years the trial will assess will the impact of the beavers’ activity on the long-term sustainability and maintenance of the “slowing the flow” artificial wooden dams. The dams have been helping to protect areas including nearby Pickering from flooding. This will be the first time in the United Kingdom that the effects beaver have on artificial dams has ever been studied.
The pioneering project between Forestry England, Forest Research, Exeter University, and beaver experts Dr Roisin Campbell-Palmer and Derek Gow is building on the “Slowing the Flow” project, north of Pickering. Slowing the flow has been hailed as a big success and a potential model for other flood prone areas across the country.
Forestry England expect that the beavers’ activity in Cropton Forest will improve biodiversity in their new 10-hectare home and may have the potential to reduce the impact of flooding locally. Monitoring will continue on site throughout the five-year project to assess these ecosystem benefits.
Over 40 volunteers have been involved in the project so far doing baseline wildlife surveys, including birds, butterflies, bats, small mammals, otters, fungi, aquatic and terrestrial plants, fish, spiders and reptiles. The surveys will be repeated every year after release.
Forestry England Forest Management Director, Yorkshire Forest District, Alan Eves said:
“Today’s landmark occasion sees the introduction of a cornerstone species that has been absent from our landscape for over 300 years. We are looking forward to seeing the beavers settle into their new home and are very interested to watch how they impact on the water flow and surrounding ecology. I am proud to have led the Forestry England team, and support their commitment to connecting people to nature here in Pickering.”
Forestry England unveiled plans for a trial reintroduction into Cropton Forest in October 2018. Since then, Natural England granted Forestry England a licence to release beavers into the carefully chosen and secure site.
Cath Bashforth, Ecologist, Yorkshire Forest District, Forestry England said:
“The site is ideal for Eurasian beavers with plenty of food and water along the 824 metres of beck and around the two old ornamental fish ponds. The habitat is a combination of broadleaves and conifers. There is a lot of willow scrub and young birch woodland with open areas to provide summer grazing for the beavers.
“Beavers are natural habitat engineers, restoring complex wetland habitats and providing habitat for declining species whilst slowing the flow of water downstream. We are delighted to welcome beavers to Cropton Forest and are keen to observe the many benefits they should bring to local communities and the wider environment.”
Hydrologists from the University of Exeter are researching the impacts of beaver reintroduction at several sites in the U.K., including Yorkshire. This will produce valuable scientific data and work is underway to ensure this informs future reintroductions.
Academics from Leeds University are also involved with their research including high tech laser scanning of the site in various locations so assessments can be made of the topographical changes throughout the trial.
For more information visit: www.forestryengland.uk/blog/beaver-trial-cropton-forest. Images can be downloaded here – please credit Forestry England / Sam Oakes.
Notes to Editor
1. Forestry England manages and cares for the nation’s 1,500 woods and forests. As England’s largest land manager, we shape landscapes and are enhancing forests for people to enjoy, wildlife to flourish and businesses to grow. For more information visit forestryengland.uk. Forestry England is an agency of the Forestry Commission.
2. The Eurasian Beaver is a large semi-aquatic native mammal that was once widespread throughout Britain. They were hunted to extinction by the beginning of the 16th Century for their meat, fur and scent glands.
Beavers are a ‘keystone species’ - playing an important role in wetland ecology by creating ecosystems that provide habitats for many other plant, insect and mammal species. Few other animals, aside from humans, have the ability to so drastically modify and shape their surrounding environment. For this reason beavers are often referred to as “ecosystem engineers”.
3. Funding for the Yorkshire project was secured in part by grants from Forest Holidays, North York Moors National Park, and North Yorkshire County Council with support from Naturespy, Flamingo Land Zoo, The Environment Agency, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Derwent Catchment Partnership.
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