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The University of Southampton

Beavers benefit fish by building dams in Scottish rivers

Published: 4 November 2021
Beaver dam
Beaver dam (credit R. Needham)

Dam-building by beavers can result in larger, more abundant  trout, according to research involving Engineering at the University of Southampton.

Professor Paul Kemp, from Southampton’s International Centre for Ecohydraulics Research, led the research which explored the impact of the modification of river habitat by Eurasian beavers on fish in small upland streams.

The study showed that by building dams in shallow streams, the beavers created deeper pools – increasing the availability of suitable habitat and abundance of food and resulting in brown trout that tended to be larger and more abundant.


Brown trout
Brown trout (credit R. Needham)

The team collaborated with the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), Salmon and Trout Conservation and NatureScot, and monitored the fish that inhabit two Scottish streams in Inverness-shire that flow into the same loch. One stream was modified by beaver activity through the construction of five dams, while the other was left unaltered, providing a unique opportunity to compare the influence of beaver habitat modification on fish.

The project findings have recently been published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.

Paul said: “This is the first published research of its kind conducted in the UK. Most of our understanding of beaver-fish interactions is based on North American studies which involves a different species of beaver, and different species of fish. The results of this study are important because it is hoped that they will allay fears expressed by some representatives of fisheries interests that beavers may be damaging to fish stocks.”

Read the full story here.


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