The UK Mammal Society has made a bold recommendation for how the British government can deal with excessive recent flooding: bring back the beavers.
The semi-aquatic river mammals, which were eradicated from their native Britain in the 16th century, are known for creating natural dams to hold back water. By using their "benign engineering skills" -- nibbling and felling trees -- beavers construct lodges that restrict river flow and contribute to fewer flash floods, as well as reduced erosion. According to representatives from the Mammal Society, reintroducing beavers to the UK would be the most effective and budget-friendly long-term plan for dealing with problematic waterways.
"Our waterways are fed by man-made ditches and field drains that reduce the land's natural ability to hold water," Marina Pacheco, the director of the society, said in an appeal to the UK's environment secretary. "The beaver could achieve the same effects [of decreasing river flow] for free and forever if we are bold enough to re-establish and tolerate it as a natural component of our river systems." According to Pacheco, the government's current plan to address flooding -- paying farmers to hold back the water themselves -- will cost millions of dollars and, ultimately, work less reliably than beaver dams.
The UK has begun a trial beaver reintroduction in parts of the Scottish Highlands, but the government remains hesitant to reintroduce the rodents on a wider scale amidst opposition from landowners. There are plans to bring the beaver to Wales in the foreseeable future, but it is yet unclear whether the UK will willingly host beavers across the whole of the British Isles anytime soon.