Beavers and flooding

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Reports from experts at the Mammal Society are indicating that the reintroduction of beavers could help alleviate the flooding problems affecting parts of the UK. This follows a successful reintroduction in Scotland.

Beavers became extinct in the UK during the 16th century due to hunting but their dam construction skills could be helpful in tandem with man-made alternatives. In fact their reintroduction could be as easy as dredging and erecting flood barriers.

Society Chief Executive Marina Pacheco stated that the river systems are in a bad state, which needs to be acknowledged, and that special help is needed to find the floods under control. She is advocating the reintroduction to begin in the most flood prone areas to see their most immediate benefits.

Results

Beavers have been reintroduced in Scotland since May 2009 and are what is called a’keystone’ species.

Beavers work on the rivers and re-establish more natural surroundings that retain water behind their multiple little dams. This water is then release at a lesser rate than man-made drains now do.

This could help alleviate the flooding downstream and would be a very economical measure.

Dredging

However Ola Holmstrom, UK Head of Water at consultancy firm WSP, was quoted as stating that dredging is’hotly debated as a flood hazard mitigation step within the hydrological community’. Experts say that the river station only has little water compared with the flood plain and elimination of material does increase capacity but not significantly.

And while the presently used system of getting the water into the ocean as quickly as possible still has its own merits, problems are only being transferred along the drainage route. Improving the movement of the water via one place can simply increase the risk of flooding down the line at another.

The suggestion is to concentrate on the upstream areas and increase the ability to hold water there. This comes with the advantage of being substantial more cost efficient than dredging.

Flood plains

Ultimately it may come to the point at which flood plains are reverted to just that and not used for housing or farming. With the changes in the climate, it may come about that there’s simply no simple solution to fix the problem in certain areas like the Somerset Levels, which is almost totally below sea level and has seen horrible flood.

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