Beavers are the only animals that can engineer the environment that they live in – using sticks to build dams, behind which ponds form. Beavers do this to raise water levels to avoid predators, such as wolves and bears: however, other animals also benefit from their work.
Professor Willby continued: “Many organisms benefit from the ponds that form behind beaver dams – including mammals, amphibians, ducks, insects and plants – and this has earned beavers the tag of ‘ecosystem engineers’.
“Partly to exploit this natural, free ecosystem, beavers have been widely reintroduced to their native range across the northern hemisphere – with the Eurasian beaver introduced to more than 25 countries throughout Europe.
“This research justifies the reasons why beavers have been reintroduced; they create unique habitats that massively benefit local wildlife. Humans are not capable of replicating this.
“We can say their reintroduction has been a qualified success. While we do not see beavers as a complete panacea, they do bring many benefits – including improving water quality, reducing the effects of floods and buffering the effects of droughts. These are all problems that society is going to face in the coming decades and beavers could help in providing a solution.”
The study, Rewilding wetlands: beaver as agents of within-habitat heterogeneity and the responses of contrasting biota, was a collaboration between Stirling, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and the Aquatic Coleoptera Conservation Trust.
The research was funded by the Carnegie Trust, a University of Stirling Horizon studentship, and Swedish Research Council Formas.