Walking into one of Harper Adams’ lecture theatres and coming face to face with Europe’s largest rodent shouldn’t have been a surprise, seeing as he was the subject of the talk that we were there to attend. However, being greeted with an iron-coloured grin from Hank the beaver was still somewhat of a shock! Once everyone was seated, Alicia Leow-Dyke from The Welsh Beaver Project began her talk on the Eurasian Beaver, Castor fiber, and their exciting potential as ecosystem engineers.
As Alicia went on to explain the impact that Beavers have on landscapes through their manipulation of water courses and their daily activities, it was clear that this keystone species had the potential to create special and increasingly scarce habitats that benefit a huge range of other species.
Not only can the beavers have an apparently massive positive impact on other wildlife but their enthusiasm for dam building can act as filters, removing sediment and chemicals from moving on downstream. The dams also help to hold water in and let it downstream at a more constant rate so helping to regulate the flow and reduce the likelihood and severity of flash-flood type events.
Having such a charming and charismatic species back in Wales after an absence of somewhere in the region of 800 years would be fantastic to see!
I and many others here at Harper are going to be following the reintroduction program closely and wish The Welsh Beaver Project every success with it.