Increased heat, more frequent droughts, melting glaciers, rising sea levels and declining water supplies are all due to climate change. Yes, it sounds like a disaster movie but this is fact and happening right now. In the UK, where we don’t often experience extreme weather, climate change is increasing the pressure on our water environment, causing more droughts, rising sea levels, intense bouts of flooding, erosion, and a greater demand on our water supplies.
Met Office records show that since 1910 there have been 17 record-breaking rainfall months
or seasons – with 9 of them since 2000.
In the summer of 2012, the lengthy period of drought the country had experienced ended abruptly when prolonged and intense rainfall increased the risk of flooding from rivers and surface water for long periods. Almost 8,000 homes and businesses were flooded across the country, particularly in the southwest.
Winter 2015 to 2016 brought widespread flooding to 17,000 properties across the north of England, with named storms Desmond, Eva and Frank causing December 2015 to be the wettest month ever recorded.
The threat of flooding is real and increasing. Around 5.4 million properties in England are at risk of flooding from rivers and the sea.
If you live in a rural location, particularly in western England, you may well have experienced
flooding at some stage. This is where the industrious beaver comes into its own. By
building damns and lodges, they slow the water flow and reduce the impacts of floods downstream
by up to 60%.
86% of our rivers are polluted and unsafe to swim and many of our chalk streams have dried up. What will we do when water shortages coincide with northern hemisphere crop failure?
When a beaver builds a damn they create ponds which bring a multitude of benefits to our ecosystem and reestablish a healthier and more balanced environment that nature intended:
Beaver dams and ponds filter out pollutants such as agricultural chemicals.
Beaver dams hold back silt that locks up carbon, while the huge amount of new plant growth also forms a carbon sink.
Beaver ponds hold water for use in periods of drought.
Willow trees are gnawed on by beavers, and the felled stems or cuttings quickly regrow. This process naturally thins trees and allows space for other plants to grow.
Beaver ponds provide nurseries for invertebrates, fish and amphibians; while clearings fill with wildflowers, attracting insects and birds.
Who wouldn’t fall in love with the image of a mother beaver swimming on their back and
their baby beaver asleep on her tummy?
Yet, not that long ago it would have been difficult if not impossible to come across these cute and cuddly-looking amphibious rodents. 400 years ago British beavers were hunted to extinction for their meat and oil.
It has only been in the past few years, with organisations such as the Beaver Trust educating communities on the benefits of these hard-working creatures, that the positive impact of beavers has been recognised. Wild Beavers have at last been introduced back to our UK riverbanks.
The Beaver Trust works throughout Britain, relocating, managing and restoring beaver populations, working closely with land managers and communities. The charity also delivers the education and communications necessary to inform the public about beavers and supports DEFRA with the emerging national beaver policy.