beavers restore wetlands


How wetlands are being revived by beavers.

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands states that we are losing wetlands three times faster than forests. The beaver is a hero with extraordinary abilities who can restore them to their natural state.

Wetlands contain food, store water, and serve as a carbon sink. Despite the fact that, according to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, they benefit humanity more than any other terrestrial ecosystem, their decline is alarming.

The main issues are the expansion of agriculture and cities, droughts, and higher temperatures brought on by climate change.

But you might be able to halt this process if you have a river and a beaver.

These furry rodents with sharp teeth construct dams on waterways to create a pond inside of which they construct a “lodge” to ward off predators.

Using stones at the base, mud, and plants to seal the dam’s upstream wall, they chew tree trunks until they fall, then use the trunk and branches as building materials.

The dam causes flooding, impedes water flow, and prolongs its stay on the ground.

“This transforms simple streams into thriving wetland ecosystems,” says Emily Fairfax, an ecohydrologist at California State University.

“The amount of food and water available in their wetlands makes them ideal habitat for many different species. That’s part of why beavers are what’s known as a keystone species.”

Beavers have been reintroduced in Canada and several US states over the past 50 years. After being nearly wiped out in the 19th century for their fur and meat, this was initially done to restore beaver populations.

However, numerous species of frogs, fish, and invertebrates have returned as a result of the restoration of wetland ecosystems.

In 2018, researchers from Finland found that ponds made by beavers had nearly twice as many different species of mammals as other ponds. There were more weasels, otters, and even moose.

“Beaver wetlands are pretty unique,” says Nigel Willby, professor of freshwater science at University of Stirling.

“Anyone can make a pond, but beavers make amazingly good ponds for biodiversity, partly because they are shallow, littered with dead wood and generally messed about with by beavers feeding on plants, digging canals, repairing dams, building lodges etc.

“Basically, beavers excel at creating complex wetland habitats that we’d never match.”

– Beaver dams can be up to 5 meters high, and the longest one ever recorded is 850 meters long in Alberta, Canada.
– While beavers cut down trees, the stumps of those trees frequently grow new shoots instead of dying; in essence, the beavers perform coppicing.
– In the 1970s, it was established that the North American beaver and the Eurasian beaver are distinct species.

According to scientists, a well-functioning wetland ecosystem can mitigate the effects of climate change by absorbing floodwaters like a sponge and storing large amounts of carbon.

During wet seasons, wetlands store water and slowly release it during droughts.

“When you enter a period of drought, all the plants living in a floodplain rely on stored water in the soil to keep green and stay healthy. If they don’t have much water to access they will start to wilt and wither and dry out,” says Dr Fairfax.

She and her colleagues examined ten distinct wildfires that occurred in five states in the United States between the years 2000 and 2021. They discovered that beavers and the ecosystem engineering they used consistently created and preserved wetland habitat, even during massive fires.

“Beaver wetlands have a lot of stored water, so plants in them don’t really feel droughts, they stay green and lush. And when wildfire came through, they were not burnt and we found that they stayed well-watered.”

However, experts claim that wetlands restoration requires more than just beavers. According to Prof. Willby, other necessary measures include restoring saltmarsh and peatland and planting woodland along river and lake banks.

Beavers only exist naturally in North America and Eurasia, which is crucial.

It can be harmful to take them to inappropriate locations. This was demonstrated in Argentina and Chile, where, in the absence of predators, beavers introduced from North America in the 1940s multiplied exponentially and caused significant forest loss.

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands’ Global Wetlands Outlook, which was released in 2021, found that Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean were the regions with the most widespread wetland degradation.

One of the most striking examples is the dramatic shrinkage of Lake Chad closer to the border of Nigeria, Cameroon, and Chad in West Africa.

It has decreased by 90% since the 1960s, primarily as a result of an abrupt rise in the demand for water from a rapidly expanding population, unplanned irrigation, and the current drought brought on by climate change.

“Conflicts, mainly between farmers and cattle-rearers, over the limited remaining water of the lake was already there and now drought is further drying it up and fighting over the water has gone worse” says Adenike Oladosu, a wetland conservation activist in Nigeria.

According to lead scientist Barron Joseph Orr of the United Nations Convention Against Desertification, wetlands are typically resilient ecosystems, but prolonged droughts now pose a growing threat.

“Climate change projections show increased drought severity in drylands that could compromise wetland resilience and reduce important habitat services,” he says.

Even though drought can harm wetlands in other places, the beaver can help keep them safe. Over a hundred successful reintroduction projects have already been carried out in northern Europe and North America.

Prof. Willby claims that the population of beavers in Europe has increased by a factor of three in the past two decades, with their reintroduction to the majority of European nations. The Natural History Museum says that Sweden, Germany, and Austria were the first, followed by the UK in the early 2000s.

“The early motivation for bringing beavers back to the UK was mostly about playing a part in restoring a declining species to its native range,” Prof Willby says.

“But the value it could have as a keystone species for other biodiversity and in natural flood management was gaining a lot more traction, and these are the arguments usually put forward now to support the local releases of translocated animals or fenced trials happening in many places.”



At Natural World Fund, we are passionate about stopping the decline in our wildlife.

The declines in our wildlife is shocking and frightening. Without much more support, many of the animals we know and love will continue in their declines towards extinction.

When you help to restore a patch of degraded land through rewilding to forests, meadows, or wetlands, you have a massive impact on the biodiversity at a local level. You give animals a home and food that they otherwise would not have had, and it has a positive snowball effect for the food chain.

We are convinced that this is much better for the UK than growing lots of fast-growing coniferous trees, solely to remove carbon, that don’t actually help our animals to thrive.

This is why we stand for restoring nature in the UK through responsible rewilding. For us, it is the right thing to do. Let’s do what’s right for nature!

Support our work today at and join in the solution!


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