Forestry England has brought a pair of Eurasian beavers from Scotland to Cropton Forest in Yorkshire for a revolutionary trial in natural flood management.
The trial will span five years and will assess the impact of the beavers’ dams on slowing water flow in surrounding areas.
Dams have been helping to protect areas including nearby Pickering from flooding.
The trial is an extension of the “Slowing the Flow” project north of Pickering, which has been hailed as a great success and a potential model for future flood prone areas.
Forestry England expect the beavers’ presence in the forest to improve the biodiversity in their new home as well as reduce the impact of local flooding.
“Beavers are natural habitat engineers, restoring complex wetland habitats and providing habitat for declining species whilst slowing the flow of water downstream,” says Forestry England ecologist Cath Bashford.
“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.”
Monitoring will continue throughout the five-year trial and annual surveys will examine the effects on local wildlife, including birds, mammals, fungi, aquatic and terrestrial plants, fish, invertebrates and reptiles.
“This landmark occasion sees the introduction of a cornerstone species that has been absent from our landscape for over 300 years,” says Alan Eves, forest management director for Yorkshire.
“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.”
Hydrologists from University of Exeter are researching the impacts of beaver reintroduction at several sites in the UK and the release in Cropton will contribute towards this study.