Dr Alan Law

PhD Research Student

M.Res. in Ecology and Environmental Biology (University of Glasgow 2008-09)
B.Sci. (with Honours) in Zoology (University of Glasgow 2004-08)

Supervisors: Dr Nigel Willby, Prof David Gilvear

Start Date: 1st October 2010

3A124A Cottrell Building
Faculty of Natural Sciences
University of Stirling

tel: +44 (0) 1786 466 542
email: Alan Law

Evaluation of the ecological impacts of beaver reintroduction on Scottish aquatic systems

At the beginning of the 20th century exploitation of the Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) was occurring across Europe and Asia and there were estimated to be only ~1200 animals left in eight isolated populations. Through reintroductions, translocations and legal protection the Eurasian beaver is now present in 29 countries occupying much of their former range with a total estimated global population range of 634,000-742,000.

After extensive consultation and planning the Eurasian beaver was officially reintroduced to Knapdale Forest, Argyll in May 2009 after an absence in Scotland of at least 400 years. The five year trial is being independently monitored by a number of partners with the University of Stirling involved with monitoring potential beavers effects on aquatic vegetation, river hydrology and river habitat.

As the largest mammal ever to be formally reintroduced to the United Kingdom and with the potential to effect surrounding habitats and species diversity through ecosystem engineering it essential that any effects are evaluated. The PhD will focus on a number of areas where beaver have direct or indirect effects with observations and experiments being carried out within the trial area at Knapdale, Argyll and also on a private collection in Perthshire.

Direct and indirect impacts of beavers on macrophytes

Beavers consume large quantities of macrophytes (aquatic plants) when available during spring, summer and autumn months, yet this foraging subject is understudied relative to terrestrial foraging patterns. Experiments at a private estate in Perthshire will document the effect of beaver exclusion on macrophyte diversity and biomass. Cafeteria-style feeding trials have also been carried out to observe seasonal food preferences.

The effect of beaver engineering activities on macro-invertebrates

Beavers have the potential to change their surrounding environment through tree felling and dam building that often creates geomorphological and hydrological heterogeneity across the landscape. This could have implications for macro-invertebrates if the hydrological regime changes from lotic to lentic, or if water level rises creating new habitats.

Publications from current work

Law, A., Bunnefeld, N & Willby, N.J. (2013). Beavers and lilies: selective herbivory and adaptive foraging behaviour. Freshwater Biology (under review).


Law, A., Bunnefeld, N & Willby, N.J. Selectivity and impact of beaver foraging on aquatic plants. 90th Scottish Freshwater Group, Stirling, April 2013

Law, A. & Willby, N.J. Selectivity and impact of beaver foraging on aquatic plants. Species Action Framework Conference, Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh. November 2012

Law, A., Willby, N.J. & Gilvear, D. J. Effects of foraging by beaver (Castor fiber L.) on aquatic vegetation in Scotland. 6th International Beaver Symposium, Ivanic-grad, Croatia. September 2012

Law, A., Willby, N.J. & Gilvear, D. J. The impact of beaver (Castor fiber) foraging on aquatic vegetation. 88th Scottish Freshwater Group, Stirling. April 2012

Publications from previous work

Burdett, H., Kamenos, N. A. and Law, A. (2010). Using coralline algae to understand historic marine cloud cover. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 302 (1-2): 65-70.

Kamenos, N. A. and Law, A. (2010). TEMPERATURE CONTROLS ON CORALLINE ALGAL SKELETAL GROWTHJournal of Phycology 46 (2): 331-335.

Law, A., Clovis T., Lalsingh, G. R. and Downie, J. R. (2010). The influence of lunar, tidal and nocturnal phases on the nesting activity of leatherbacks (Dermochelys coriacea) in Tobago, West Indies. Marine Turtle Newsletter 127: 12-17.

Law, A. and Ayre, J. (2010). Sea turtles in Tobago: An update. British Chelonia Group Newsletter, February 2010.

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