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Latest beaver trial reports published

Beaver teeth marks on birch tree (c) James Hutton Institute
"The overall effect of the beavers on the woodland since they arrived at Knapdale is to significantly change the structure of some areas close to the edge of the lochs where they are living.

Six reports looking at the trial reintroduction of beavers at Knapdale in Argyll have been published today (Thursday 20 November) by Scottish Natural Heritage, including a report by the James Hutton Institute.

The reports consider the health of the beavers and their effect on aquatic plants, woodland, scheduled monuments and public health as well as the socio-economic costs and benefits of the trial. They set out the findings over the five years the Scottish Beaver Trial has been running, since the beavers were released in May 2009 by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, on land managed by Forestry Commission Scotland. During that time Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and its partners have been closely monitoring the beavers and their effects on the environment. The results will help the Scottish Government decide on the future of beavers in Scotland.

The woodland study, carried out by James Hutton Institute researchers, showed the beavers had gnawed or felled 8.6% of trees in the area as a whole by early 2014. Most of this activity was within 10m of the water’s edge. They favoured trees that were 2–6 cm across. Their particular favourites were willow, rowan and hazel but birch was most often used by beavers as it was the most commonly found tree in the survey area. Conifers were fairly plentiful but little used. Many trees felled by beavers regrow from their stumps but an initial flush of re-sprouting earlier in the trial tailed off more recently, as deer have eaten some of the new growth.

The overall effect of the beavers on the woodland since they arrived at Knapdale is to significantly change the structure of some areas close to the edge of the lochs where they are living. In these areas the woodland has opened up and at ground level grass cover and woody debris has increased while leaf litter has reduced. Many other areas of woodland along the shore and away from the water haven’t been affected by the beavers at all.

All the reports also considered the likely future effects of beavers at Knapdale and in the event of a wider reintroduction, based on the results and conclusions from the five years of the trial.

Martin Gaywood, who leads the independent scientific monitoring of the trial for SNH said: “It’s essential that any species reintroduction project is properly managed and monitored. The independent monitoring of the Scottish Beaver Trial has helped us understand how they behave in a Scottish environment.

"Together with the range of work being done in Tayside and through other projects, it means that future decisions about the beavers at Knapdale and elsewhere in Scotland will be based on the best information available. We’ll be preparing a report for Ministers on the trial, which will be submitted in May 2015. The Scottish Government will then decide if beavers will be permanently reintroduced to Scotland.”

Notes to editors: 

Online copies of the reports are available from the Scottish Natural Heritage website

For more information on the Scottish Beaver Trial, visit www.scottishbeavers.org.ukThe Scottish Government has asked Scottish Natural Heritage to coordinate the independent scientific monitoring of the trial and to report on whether the conditions of the licence were being fully addressed on the ground. SNH will report the outcome of the trial to Scottish Ministers, after the monitoring phase of the trial came to an end May this year. The report will also take into account other work on beavers being carried out, for example through the Tayside Beaver Group and the Beaver-Salmonid Working Group.

SNH is working with a number of independent organisations to carry out the monitoring work. They are Argyll and Bute Council, Argyll Fisheries Trust, Historic Scotland, British Dragonfly Society, James Hutton Institute, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, Scotland’s Rural College, University of Oxford Wildlife Conservation Research Unit and University of Stirling. Each organisation is contributing resources towards the monitoring of the trial, along with SNH which is contributing £275,000. For further information on the monitoring work see www.snh.gov.uk/scottishbeavertrialTo find out more about beavers go to http://www.snh.gov.uk/docs/A1456950.pdf

More information from: 

Bernardo Rodriguez-Salcedo, Media Manager, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395089 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard) or +44 (0)7791 193918 (mobile).

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Printed from /news/latest-beaver-trial-reports-published on 01/06/20 03:24:09 AM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.