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Managing Wetlands Using Beavers

Organisation: Devon Wildlife Trust
Location: Otter Catchment
Type: Case Study

A wide range of British wetland species depend on the habitats created by this once widespread keystone species.
Beavers create complex wetland mosaics, creating ponds, canals, mires and braided streams, and coppicing trees like willow as aspen to maintain open grassland habitats within the mosaic.  Their wetlands store water in headwaters reducing flooding and ameliorating the impacts of droughts, and trapping pollutants.
This vegetarian animal coppices trees to regenerate fresh young shoots, and grazes grasses and other bankside vegetation.  Beavers feel safe in water and create canals and ponds to expand, explore and exploit the riparian corridor.
In headwaters they build leaky dams to create open water where little exists. As well as providing extensive habitats for wetland species, the dams trickle water into the headwaters providing healthy base-flows, and reducing flooding.
Further downstream they coppice riverside trees, bringing light to more shaded areas and creating habitats for invertebrates and fish. Currently the use of beavers is restricted to a limited number of fenced sites. However DWT has submitted an application to monitor the impacts of the animals living wild on the River Otter.

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