Specific species conservation measures: beaver

Specific species conservation measures: beaver
Lots of animals establish living spaces in unique waterbodies that were shaped by beavers. © Marion Heidemann-Grimm/pixelio.de

Involved sectors

Agriculture, Forestry, Water management, Hunting, Nature protection, Transport, Other: Energy

Affected habitats

Waterbodies

Description

Hardly any other species shapes and influences its habitat as actively as the beaver. The beaver makes burrows in riverbanks, builds dams, and fells trees. Before humans began to shape the landscape actively through their land use, there was a broad network of pools, created by beavers, along the watercourses. Many other species of fauna have developed in a water landscape which the beaver has done much to create. And yet the beaver was on the verge of extinction in Europe. It is now progressively recolonising numerous watercourses. Since its return, the beaver is bringing many of the watercourses made moribund by human activity back to life and restoring their dynamism. It creates a mosaic of new habitats and structures by opening up vegetation, promoting deadwood, and creating pools and dams. This results in more attractive landscapes and a biotope network along the watercourses and helps to improve watercourse and flood protection.

Impact

Ecological impact  
Improvement or preservation of habitats Many other species of fauna have developed in a water landscape which the beaver has done much to create. It is therefore described as a key species of fauna for small water bodies. Long-term studies in Germany have shown that the beaver has an extremely positive effect on numerous species of aquatic and riparian flora and fauna.
Element of ecological network The beaver helps to restore water bodies and thus actively increases species diversity and the diversity of water body structures, thus creating natural corridors along the watercourses.
Other The beaver also helps to clean the watercourses; the water flows more slowly as a result of the dams built by beaver, causing sediments and substances such as chemicals and nutrients to be deposited. These substances would otherwise promote algal growth and lead to oxygen depletion. More flood events occur in regions without beavers' dams.
Time of realisation for measure Long term: The restructuring of watercourses by beaver is a long-term process.
Impact scope Regional: Measures to promote beaver, but also the problems caused by them, must be addressed at both local and regional level.

Implementation

Implementation period Long term: In areas where beaver occurs, conflicts will always arise. Coexistence with beaver must be re-learned for the long term.
Frequency Recurring: Long-term implementation of a series of measures, area management is essential.

Economic and legal aspects

Costs Low (1'000-10'000 EUR): Varies according to the measures adopted. Farmers receive payment for ecological services in areas with beaver.
Socio-economic impacts Low: The beaver provides various "ecological" services, including flood protection.
Sources of financing Public: local, Public: regional, Public: national, Public: European
Legal situation In some federal states, the beaver is covered by hunting legislation.

Further information

Evaluation There are various conflicts with beaver: collapsed pathways, felled trees, agricultural damage. However, this damage rarely occurs more than 10 m from the river bank. This should be established as a buffer zone along watercourses in order to restore their natural dynamism and thus make an effective contribution to the biotope network.
Information Switzerland: e.g. Biberfachstelle (Beaver Advice Centre), Neuchatel, Switzerland
Contact Switzerland: Contact person at Beaver Advice Centre: Christof Angst

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