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FAQ: Do beavers cause a lot of environmental damage?

Beavers do modify the habitats and landscapes they live in through coppicing, feeding and in some cases damming (beavers living on lochs or large rivers have little need of constructing dams). In the first instance, these changes can markedly alter the appearance of the local environment but all of these modifications have a positive effect on biodiversity. 

Beaver adaptations can bring enormous benefits to other species, including otters, water shrews, water voles, birds, invertebrates especially dragonflies, and breeding fish. In effect, beavers naturally create and maintain diverse habitats. Their dams can hold water in periods of drought, can regulate flooding and improve water quality by holding silt behind dams and catching acidic and agricultural run-off.

Knpdale beaver dam (Laurie Campbell)

Knapdale beaver dam (Laurie Campbell)

Beavers forage close to water with activity usually concentrated within 20 m of the water’s edge. Beavers do fell broad-leafed trees and bushes in order to eat the bark during the winter and to construct their lodges. Most trees will be coppiced and will regenerate, which diversifies the surrounding habitat structure. Coppicing has been practiced by foresters throughout history as a method to manage bankside trees. The actions of beavers are very similar meaning the woodlands will be naturally maintained.

Gnawed tree, Norway (SBT)

Gnawed tree, Norway.

Beavers are a species that occasionally require the need for direct management intervention by man, if their activities result in undesirable localised flooding or tree felling. Any occasional localised problems are usually overcome by simple actions, such as overflow piping and electric fencing. Beavers rarely eat conifers, although the odd conifer might be gnawed by an immature animal that has not learned that conifers are unpalatable and that its resin gums up their teeth. They generally do not live in water entirely surrounded by conifers.

Bavarian beaver deceiver

Beaver deceiver (outflow pipe in dam), Bavaria.

All beaver activities and impacts have been monitored as part of the scientific Trial.

The beaver: keystone species of wet woodland and forest

 

 

Project partners

The Royal Zoological Society of ScotlandScottish Wildlife Trust
Forestry Commission Scotland

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    Beavers are back in Scotland!

    On 24 November 2016, the Scottish Government made the landmark announcement that beavers are to remain in Scotland. This is the first time that a mammal has been formally reintroduced in UK history.

    The trial population of beavers remains in Knapdale, and the Scottish Beaver partners are now focussing their efforts on re-enforcing this population to ensure its long term future.

    Boosting the Knapdale beaver population

    For updates on the beaver reinforcement project, please visit the website of the Scottish Wildlife Trust or the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland by clicking on the adjacent logos.

    The Scottish Beaver Trial website

    Now that the Trial has ended, this website will no longer be updated. However, if you would like to browse our historical records on the website, please click the button to continue.

    Scottish Beaver Trial RZSS Scottish Wildlife Trust