Female beaver on the River Otter, Devon, by Mike Symes/Devon Wildlife Trust
After being hunted to extinction 400 years ago, Cornwall Wildlife Trust and partners Woodland Valley Farm are bringing beavers back to Cornwall. This ground-breaking project intends to show that beavers can help create new wildlife habitat, make our water cleaner and crucially reduce flooding. Beavers will be reintroduced to a fenced area, upstream of Ladock village, near Truro, that has suffered severe flooding. Our partner Universities will study the before and after impacts, building on research from reintroductions in the UK and across Europe. The results will help us find out if this native species could once again become part of the Cornish landscape to help us combat flooding – naturally.
So, why bring beavers back?
There are several reasons why we should consider bringing beavers back to Cornwall. From helping to reduce flooding to improving habitats for wildlife, they are a species that could really benefit Cornwall.
Beavers were once a native species of the British Isles and are a 'keystone' species of wetland habitats - meaning they benefit a wide range of other species, from fish and frogs to insects and birds.
Beavers also have the potential to reduce flooding - their activities such as building dams and digging water channels enable the land around them to hold more water. This means that during very heavy rainfall water doesn't flow as quickly into rivers, which will help prevent them overflowing and bursting their banks.
This same activity helps make river water cleaner. Slowing the flow of the water helps to filter it, causing soil sediment and pollutants to settle at the bottom of waterways, essentially trapping them away.
Further information on the potential benefits of beavers are well described on The Wildlife Trusts’ website page Why bring back the beaver? Publications on the Scottish Beaver Trial, Devon Beaver Project and Welsh Beaver Project are all available to download here.
What is proposed for Cornwall?
In Cornwall we are planning a five year fenced trial at Woodland Valley Farm, a mixed farm upstream from Ladock, north east of Truro. Ladock is a small settlement that is affected by flooding. This makes it a good location to find out if beaver activity can help reduce flooding to the village.
Two adult beavers will be introduced to a two hectare (five acre) enclosure that contains prime beaver habitat on Woodland Valley Farm. The stream flowing through the enclosure is a tributary of the Tresillian River. The catchment above the site is around 120 hectares, which is of a scale inbetween that of both the Devon beaver projects. Devon's fenced trial is at the headwaters of a stream with an upstream catchment of around 20 hectares, whereas the River Otter trial is on the main river itself with a much larger catchment area. The Cornwall trial allows researchers to study the impacts of beavers at a scale between the two existing Devon projects. Having research projects at various scales will give us a better picture of the potential impacts of a wider reintroduction of beavers.
View of part of Woodland Valley Farm looking south
Who is involved?
Cornwall Wildlife Trust is hosting the Cornwall Beaver Project on behalf of a wider partnership of individuals and organisations including; University of Exeter, University of Southampton, University of Plymouth, CoaST and Woodland Valley Farm.
A considerable amount of research has been carried out across Europe and we do not need to repeat what has already been done. The research objectives of our project have been chosen to focus on aspects that are less well understood, particularly in a lowland farmed landscape:
• Hydrology - Professor Richard Brazier from University of Exeter will study how beavers affect the flow of water into and out of the project site. Flow equipment is already installed and we now have a year’s worth of baseline data before beavers are introduced.
• Water Quality - Richard will also look at pollutants in the stream and track differences in concentrations above and below the site.
• Impact on fish - Dr Paul Kemp from Southampton University intends to research the impacts of the Cornwall beavers on migratory fish passage.
• Ecology - Kelly Moyes from University of Exeter will lead the ecological surveys, with a particular focus on frogs, toads, newts and freshwater insects.
• Public perception of beaver reintroduction - Dr Ana Nuno from University of Exeter will oversee research into the public’s perception of beaver reintroduction in Cornwall.
For further information about the project
Contact Cheryl Marriott, Conservation Manager, Cornwall Wildlife Trust. firstname.lastname@example.org 01872 240777 ext 234.