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Beneficial Impact of Beavers During a Drought

A series of encouraging drone shots clearly demonstrate how the reintroduction of beavers to a Devon estate, in south west England, has had a hugely positive impact on the landscape during the current drought.

Over 400 years after beavers were hunted to extinction in the UK, the animals were returned to the river Otter in Devon in 2008, and after initial plans for them to be removed, the government consented to a five-year study which highlighted the astonishing improvements to the ecosystem that beavers bring. As a result, the beaver population is now thriving and, er, beavering away to create the beneficial habitats that they enjoy.

Amid the drought and one of the hottest summers on record, some of those benefits are now highly visible, with the land where the beavers are living remaining a lush green, while adjacent land has turned a parched yellow.

The tinder-dry conditions have led to record numbers of wildfires in the UK, but on the Clinton Devon Estates, where a number of beaver families have built dams to create new wetlands, roughly an entire hectare of land remains underwater.

All pictures courtesy of Clifton Devon Estates

“It’s quite incredible to see this area when the conditions have been so challenging in recent weeks," said Ed Lagdon, a ranger for conservation organisation East Devon Pebblebed Heaths.

"Beavers are very territorial and as the Lower Otter is near full capacity, beaver families will explore nearby tributaries and culverts to find small areas of wetland to settle. They feel safe in water so will seek a water source and that’s likely to be why this family chose this particular area."

“It’s when they come away from the river in this way that they can have more of an impact on their surroundings – they will change the environment around them and manipulate the conditions to suit them. In this location, the beavers have used sticks and mud to create several dams which are now holding back large volumes of water.”

New government legislation comes into force on 1 October which will afford beavers legal protection as a recognised native species in England, meaning it will be illegal to disturb, harm or kill them.

John Varley, Clinton Devon Estates director, said: “In the right place, beavers can bring about major benefits for wildlife, the environment and society, including increased biodiversity, which is a key aim of the government’s Nature Recovery Network."

Last year, beavers were reintroduced to five more counties in England and Wales.



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