The Debrief: How a Scottish project established the case for the return of beavers

The Knapdale trial, which kicked off UK beaver reintroduction after centuries of absence, has shown the biodiversity benefits of these “ecosystem engineers” but also the need for local engagement and a strong management plan, finds Jocelyn Timperley.

Beavers constantly alter the habitats around them. They build dams to create water levels that suit them best, turn meadows into biodiversity-rich wetlands, and in general create a messy, dynamic habitat where invertebrates and plants thrive.

“We call them ecosystem engineers,” says Helen Taylor, conservation programme manager for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS). “And that’s because, other than humans, they are probably the species we know about that alters the habitat around them the most.”

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