Dredging is increasingly viewed as the magic elixir to solve the UK’s flooding woes, but could the re-introduction of the beaver provide a more long-term solution to our watery worries?
As each wet and windy week passes, the uncanny resemblance between parts of the UK and the set from a disaster movie grow ever more convincing.
The flooding on the Somerset Levels has now taken on almost biblical proportions with vast swathes of land rendered inaccessible and virtually uninhabitable.
But the Levels are not alone; since early December the most severe winter flooding for years has brought misery and mayhem to parts of England and Wales.
The challenge of how to deal with the increased flooding risk has finally gained political traction with river dredging and the building of additional flood barriers mooted as possible solutions.
But another proposal has also been suggested, one which involves letting the environment solve the problem itself - with a little help from a creature from our distant past along the way.
Wildlife charity The Mammal Society are calling for the widespread re-introduction of the beaver as they believe the mammal could use its dam-building skills alongside other man-made measures.
These large, semi-aquatic mammals build dams across shallow river channels. This leads to beaver ‘impoundments’ which provide the animals with improved security and greater access to food. Collectively these impoundments hold large quantities of water in tributaries and side-streams and release it slowly into the main river further downstream. This dispersal in effect ‘puts the brakes’ on flooding.
As well as reducing the effects of flooding, beavers are also good for the environment. Their dams act as mini nature reserves, providing key habitats for fish, plants, insects and birds.