The River Otter Beaver Trial
The River Otter catchment has been the location of a trial reintroduction of beavers through a partnership project between Devon Wildlife Trust and the University of Exeter. This 5 year trial began with the introduction of two family groups of beavers in 2015. These groups have interbred and it is now estimated there are 15 family groups of beavers living on the River Otter. In 2020, in a landmark decision, the Government allowed the beavers to remain.
Beavers bring a host of benefits to the river’s environment and to the communities living within the catchment. Over the 5 year trial significant ecological benefits were observed through the creation of new wetland habitats. Wetlands are important areas for carbon sequestration and provide habitat for a variety of species. Additionally, the deep ponds and channels created by dams store water, slowing the flow and help prevent flooding. For example, beaver activity created a wetland habitat in farmland upstream of a flood-prone village, slowing the speed at which water reaches the settlement.
How is this helping Devon reach net-zero?
Action F22: Work with the government to increase funding to enhance the effectiveness of the Catchment Based Approach, which provides coordination of conservation measures between landowners and potential funders at a catchment scale for improved water quality and nature.
The reintroduction of beavers to the River Otter is improving the river’s ecosystem, helping to achieve the goal in the Devon Carbon Plan to restore and enhance habitats so that they fulfil their natural potential for carbon sequestration and storage. Additionally, beaver dams slow the speed of floods downhill and improve water retention helping prevent droughts. This is helping Devon adapt to the impacts of climate change, supporting the work of the Climate Impacts group.