Management Framework - The Benefits of Beavers
Are you having problems with beaver activity? You can email us at [email protected] or telephone 01463 725 000 and ask to speak to someone about managing beaver activity. Find out more information about our Beaver Mitigation Scheme.
This document summarises how we will promote, facilitate, demonstrate and learn more about the many benefits that beavers can provide. These benefits will arise from beavers role as nature’s engineers and potential roles in positive land management and ecosystem services as well as social, economic and cultural benefits.
Beavers are widely considered to be ‘ecosystem engineers’, which means they have a large impact on habitats and species through the alterations they make to the physical environment. Beavers can provide a range of ecosystem services. These include ‘provisioning ecosystem services’ such as increased ground water storage, ‘regulation and maintenance ecosystem services’ such as flow stabilisation and flood prevention, and ‘cultural ecosystem services’ that relate to people’s recreational, educational and spiritual interactions with the environment. They can act as agents of natural change and restoration. These all contribute to human wellbeing and have socio-economic impacts.
Experience from Scotland and abroad has demonstrated that, overall, beavers have a very positive influence on biodiversity. Their ability to modify the environment means that beavers not only create new habitats but also increase habitat diversity at the catchment scale. Their impacts are dynamic and change across space and time. The mechanisms by which beavers change environments and affect biodiversity include creating ponds and wetlands, altering sediment transport processes, importing woody debris into aquatic environments, creating important habitat features such as standing dead wood, creating coppiced stands and unique vegetation structures, and creating successional stages such as beaver meadows.
Beaver dams will impede the flow (quantity and velocity) of water in a channel. Beaver dams therefore increase the in-channel storage of water. By increasing the amount of water stored in a channel or on a floodplain the effects of prolonged periods of dry weather may be lessened. By slowing flow, and therefore reducing the speed at which intercepted precipitation passes through a catchment, beaver dams can increase the length of time taken for a flood to reach its peak and reduce the height of the peak. The dissipation of energy associated with flows slowed by beaver activity will result in increased channel stability i.e. less erosion and deposition and therefore less lateral and vertical movement of the channel. Beaver activity may therefore result in the development of natural flood defences. Beaver ponds also trap sediment acting as a filter and improving water quality.
Opportunities to benefit from beavers
Future Rural Environment support is likely to focus on:
- Climate change mitigation
- Soil conservation
- Flood management
Beavers can have a role in delivering these priorities in any future agricultural support and NatureScot will work with agricultural stakeholders to develop a future rural environmental support mechanism that delivers on these 4 priorities.
Flood Risk Management Strategies
Beavers have a potentially significant role in flood management and NatureScot will advocate to SEPA the opportunity for beavers to be part of natural flood management where appropriate.
Beavers will provide significant biodiversity benefits. NatureScot’s Biodiversity Challenge Fund aims to help us to meet the four Aichi targets that require increased and focussed action by October 2020:
- Habitat loss reduced (Aichi target 5)
- Sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and forestry (Aichi target 7)
- Invasive species (Aichi target 9)
- Ecosystems vulnerable to climate change (Aichi target 10)
The fund is targeted at action on the ground and one theme looks to revive and extend wetlands. Targeted action includes re-establishing habitat – including expansion, increased connectivity and changing habitat management and examples could include restoring a network of wetland sites, delivering freshwater benefits such as riparian tree planting or increasing diversity of river channels, enhancing diversity and creating deadwood to benefit insects and managing hydrology e.g. restoring natural systems adversely affected by artificial drainage. The presence of beavers could actively help deliver some of these actions up to and beyond 2020.
As part of our Climate Change Action Plan we are working to limit climate change (mitigation) through carbon storage in peatlands. We are actively facilitating peatland restoration to enhance their ability to store carbon. Where appropriate, beavers may have a role to play in peatland restoration.
Social, economic and cultural opportunities
NatureScot will work with businesses and wildlife site managers to promote the presence of beavers and increase people’s appreciation of these animals. We will look for demonstration sites and engage with volunteer groups, such as the Scottish Wild Beaver Group, so that they can encourage more people to become actively involved in beaver conservation and getting out of doors to benefit from nature. We will also work with fisheries interests as we acknowledge that there are both positive and negative effects from beavers on fisheries interest.
Learning about the benefits of beavers
In line with our Survey, Monitoring and Research strategy NatureScot will work in partnership with research bodies to investigate the impacts of the changing landscape of Scotland associated with beavers.
Selection of sites where beavers can help deliver for ecosystem services, water quality and flood attenuation will be selected in partnership with stakeholders and will focus initially on the two population areas.
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Disclaimer: Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has changed its name to NatureScot as of the 24th August 2020.
At the time of publishing, this document may still refer to Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and include the original branding. It may also contain broken links to the old domain.
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