Beaver reintroduction at Holnicote

A beaver swimming in a river

Beavers have been welcomed as their reintroduction happens on the Holnicote Estate. The beavers will help with natural flood management and improve biodiversity on the estate.

 

Beaver reintroduction 

The plan has been approved by Natural England and will see a pair of these amazing mammals released into two fenced areas of woodland at Holnicote on the edge of Exmoor in Somerset.

The beaver reintroduction (which happened in January 2020), is the first made by the National Trust and combines plans to create priority habitat for nature - increases the diversity of species and wildlife in its care.

Beavers were once an important part of the ecosystem but became extinct in the UK in the 16th Century due to hunting for their fur, meat and scent glands.

Ben Eardley, National Trust Project Manager at Holnicote says: “Our aim is that the beavers become an important part of the ecology at Holnicote, developing natural process and contributing to the health and richness of wildlife in the area. They will be part of our innovative ‘Stage 0’ project, part of the Riverlands work which is about restoring natural process and complexity in parts of the river catchment”.

The benefits of beavers 

Beavers are known as a keystone species within their ecosystem. They can change their habitat and create new ones. This can help the both the wildlife and improve the river quality. Beavers create wetlands which support other species such as water voles, otters, dragonflies and amphibians. Their presence in our river catchments is a sustainable way to help make our landscapes more resilient to climate change and the extremes of weather it will bring.

The dams the beavers create will hold water in the dry periods, help to lessen flash flooding downstream, reduce erosion and improve water quality by holding silt.

Mark Harold, Director of Land and Nature at the National Trust said: “We know from the recent State of Nature report that wildlife is in decline, 41 percent of species since 1970 and 15 percent of species are under threat from extinction. These releases are part of the Trust’s wider objective to restore 25,000 hectares of wildlife-rich habitats by 2025. Part of this work means we are focusing on helping nature recover, and the reintroduction of beavers is just one example of our approach to restore nature processes”.


The reintroduction

The beavers will now be getting to work to help slow the flow of water, their work will help to hold water in dry periods, which will reduce the impact of drought. In turn, this will lessen flash-flooding downstream, reducing erosion and improving water quality by holding silt and pollutants. 

The project will be carefully monitored with help from Exeter University and others, to note both ecological and hydrological changes to habitat.