Send in the Beavers
Step aside, hydraulic engineers: Brits are employing beavers to restore wetlands in an area that hasn’t seen them for three centuries. The BBC News announced that the Devon Wildlife Trust started a three-year experiment, in hopes that “the beavers would improve water quality and reduce flood risks by clearing scrub and trees and improving watercourses.”
Local farmers worry that the mammals could damage crops and livestock. The wildlife engineers will keep the beavers confined and will study both negative and positive impacts of the animals on the landscape. They hope, however, that “our experiment studying these interesting creatures over the next few years will yield valuable insights into the impacts on one of our most treasured wetland habitats.” A short video clip of two beavers playing in the water accompanies the article.
Sounds like a worthwhile experiment. Returning lands to their native balance is less risky than introducing non-native species into an area – experiments that have often had harmful consequences.
It will be interesting to see if water quality increases and flood risk is reduced. That can help the farmers in the long run. If the farmers think the beavers get out of control, they could consider adding fur hats or beaver steakhouses to their businesses (one 300-pounder serves 80, 01/04/2011). Let the new trappers be more humane in their methods than the 19th-century fur traders, though; and keep the Darwinians out unless tall tales around the campfire are desired for entertainment.
For previous articles on beaver engineering and their benefits to the ecology, see 01/04/2011, 10/11/2008,