Beaver, Dam it!
As climate change brings more rain, there will be more catastrophic flooding; flooding of crops, homes and businesses, particularly in urban areas where there is simply no place for the water to go. One British writer has identified the beaver as the would-be hero to restore hydrological normalcy. Louise Ramsey writes about the beaver in Britain where reintroductions of the rodent have shown the vital role they once had in reducing flooding and how they could take up that mantle once more.
In spite of their reputation for causing floods, beavers also have the capacity for mitigating the impact of flooding, but on a rather bigger scale.
Here's an example to illustrate the point. Some beavers were brought to a farm in the Tay catchment near Bamff in Perthshire, Scotland, to live in large enclosures in 2002, as a demonstration project.
Before there were beavers, across most of the flat land there was a five-foot deep ditch running through. In dry times the ditch had very little water in it. In rainy times, and times of rapid snowmelt the water rushed down the ditch and tipped out into the burn that flowed down the little den and on to the neighboring land.
All that water headed quickly on its way through the agricultural land to the east, and on down the burn and into the Isla and then the Tay. In January 1993, when a fast thaw followed a big freeze, the Tay flooded its banks downstream at Perth and caused widespread damage to homes and great misery to many.
Since then floodwalls have been built in Perth and there hasn't been another flooding incident yet, but the water has come close to the top of the wall on a number of occasions. Other parts of low-ground Perthshire continue to suffer regular flooding.
The beavers on the farm got established and started breeding by 2005. Over time they built, perhaps thirty dams and as a result they are holding up thousands of tons of water at the moment, as almost relentless rain has fallen in the last month.
Just beyond the ditch there are two ponds that were dug in the 19th century for recreational use. By 30 years ago they were starting to dry out. One of them had become more of a wetland than a pond, and not a very wet wetland at that. The other had shrunk and was heading the same way.
Read more at ENN affiliate, the Ecologist.
Beaver image via Shutterstock.