10 Things About Beavers and Climate Change With Dr Andrew Speak
Posted On 11/05/2023
The UK lost a lot of its trees in the 80s and 90s.
The EU’s common agricultural policy (CAP) paid farmers proportionally to the amount of land they farmed and so encouraged the clearing of small woodland on farmland to increase the profits.
This has indirectly led to increases in flooding in combination with the higher frequency of heavy rainfall events due to climate change affecting weather systems. Trees help prevent flooding by intercepting the rainfall, evapotranspiring it back into the atmosphere, and reducing excess runoff.
Flooding is now a big issue in the UK due to the damage it causes to property and it is only predicted to get worse under climate change predictions.
One good thing (possibly) about Brexit is that the UK government are now paying famers to put trees back on their land.
Researchers, such as in the CASTOR (Creative Adaptive Solutions for Treescapes Of Rivers) research group based at Manchester University, are pushing for one better than that – which is rewilding. This where land is set aside between bits of farmland for nature to do whatever it wants.
This is not just replanting woodlands but replanting them in a low management way to encourage biodiversity.
Beavers are added in to the mix because they build their dams which alter the hydrology of streams. Beavers have slowly been reintroduced to the UK after nearly 500 years absence, with growing populations in Scotland and Devon.
Heavy rainfall events have less impact because the runoff is slowed within these hydrological ‘sponges’ in the landscape created by the beavers.
The UK is one of the least forested countries in Europe and finally something is being done to reverse that.
Dr Andrew Speak got his PhD from Manchester University in Green Roofs and Micro-climates. He has subsequently worked in multiple universities across Italy helping to demonstrate the benefits of trees in cities. He has now returned to his roots to research rewilding the UK and the re-introduction of the Eurasian beaver.
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