As a keystone species, the beaver helps support the ecosystem in which it inhabits
European Beaver (Castor fiber) low angle picture of pair of beavers
Beavers were once widespread throughout Britain, it is believed that they were hunted to extinction and were last recorded in Scotland in the 16th century. The situation has changed in recent times and there are currently two distinct beaver populations in Scotland; in Knapdale, Argyll, and in Tayside and Forth.
In Tayside, beavers were first recorded in the wild again in around 2006, thought to have originated by either escapes from captive collections or unauthorised releases. In Knapdale, beavers were introduced under licence as part of the Scottish Beaver Trial 2009 as a short term contained trial population for scientific monitoring, rather than a founder population for a reintroduction.
Recent Scotland wide surveys have shown that beavers are now living on the southern fringes of the Cairngorms National Park and while we do not expect their arrival to be imminent, we are working with land managers and partners to be better informed and better prepared for a possible arrival by natural means.
The Cairngorms Beaver Group have commissioned Roisin Campbell-Palmer and Exeter University to carry out the study which will:
Assess how beavers may naturally colonise and disperse within and out of the Cairngorms National Park from present populations, particularly from the Tayside catchment;
Assess the impact this is likely to have on the ecology and land use in the Cairngorms National Park through determination of habitat suitability and beaver dam capacity modelling and field-based surveys;
Focus particularly on likely impacts on Atlantic salmon populations, farming interests, designated and priority species, natural processes and habitat modification; and
Make recommendations for mitigation, stakeholder engagement, opportunities for benefits from beaver colonisation and building resilience in land use and ecological systems.
The research team will be out in the field in late June and July, with a focus on ground-truthing priority areas highlighted by the mapping and modelling work. Once the priority areas have been identified, the team will be contacting land managers for permissions to do walkover surveys and organising drop-in sessions for any land managers interested in the maps.
Andy Ford, Head of Conservation, Cairngorms National Park Authority [email protected]
The Cairngorms Beaver Group includes representatives from CNPA, NFUS, Scottish Land & Estates, River Dee Trust, Spey Fishery Board, Esk River & Fisheries Trust, RSPB, River South Esk Catchment Partnership and NatureScot