The United Kingdom flood defence team are enlisting beavers to prevent flooding in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire. In the first plan of its kind on government land, locals of Lydbrook village hope to release a family of beavers to construct dams.
Beavers are known for their rapid building skills, and it is expected that the semi-aquatic mammals will create numerous dams and canals that will slow Greathough Brook dramatically, thwarting floods that have plagued the area for years. “Science suggests these animals will hold back 6,000 cubic metres of water,” beaver expert Derek Gow told The Guardian. “This has the potential to prevent a once-in-30-years flood event. These animals will also open the forest canopy to light and create a biodiversity jewel in this forest.” If the scheme works, it could be replicated in multiple British river systems as a cost-effective way of managing flooding, he adds.
In May a Cornish farmer joined with the Cornwall Wildlife Trust to release beavers in Ladock, which has faced severe flooding in the past. After just a fortnight, the beavers had built waterways that held back 1,000 cubic metres of water.
While some Lydbrook residents worry the beavers will escape the fenced area, the majority of locals feel it is a positive initiative that will protect the village and promote its tourism and wildlife. “People are in favour because of the potential to help against flooding,” says Stuart Aken. “Most are interested in the increase in wildlife that it will bring to the area.”
Green councilor Sid Phelps explains that the beavers will be tagged, so if they do escape they can easily be tracked. “This seems to be an innovative idea to deal with both climate change and the risk of increased flooding,” he says.
Beavers are second only to humans in their ability to manipulate and change their environment.