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Plymouth's beavers make difference to flooding

An image of the two beavers crawling down a river bank - CREDIT TO CHRIS PARKES
Photo thanks to Chris Parkes Photography

Poole Farm's pair of Eurasian beavers are successfully reducing the risk of flooding in Plymouth.

A new study undertaken by scientists from the University of Exeter has looked into the effects of the beavers, and of other nature-focussed methods employed up stream.

They have discovered that during peak flows, the result of the creatures' effective damming, coupled with man-made leaky dams built by staff and volunteers, has reduced the flow of water in the Bircham Valley by 23 per cent.

It is thought that the research is the first of its kind to study the effects of the animals in an urban environment.

Councillor Tom Briars-Delve, Cabinet Member for the Environment and Climate Change, said: "It's amazing for Plymouth to be at the forefront of such ground-breaking research.

"We were always clear that there was a scientific reason for bringing the beavers to Poole Farm and to identify the positive effect they are having on our environment is fabulous.

"I'm hopeful that this research can serve to benefit communities at risk of flooding in other urban areas across the county and mark Plymouth as a place that pioneers nature-based solutions to climate change."

Dr Alan Puttock, Lecturer in Applied Nature Based Solutions at the University of Exeter, was part of the team which conducted the research.

Dr Puttock said: “It’s been fantastic to see the beavers creating wetlands at Poole Farm.

“Combined with the other nature-based approaches undertaken our results show significant attenuation of downstream flow regimes.

“This project in Plymouth is particularly exciting in demonstrating that beavers can help provide flood management solutions in urban environments”

Our latest pair of beavers arrived to live in the wilding enclosure at Poole Farm in October 2023 as part of the Green Minds project.

The Green Minds project was a Plymouth City Council initiative to re-wild people and places which has overseen a number of urban wilding project across the city and has engaged with communities to help people explore and enjoy the health benefits that nature and our green spaces provide.

Since then, the creatures have been busy creating a home for themselves, while building dams to alter the course of the river. Creating ponds and wetlands buzzing with wildlife.

New wildlife has been observed in the area since the arrival of beavers including otters, kingfishers more frogs and a badger filmed crossing one of the beaver dams.

Alongside this, as part of the Plymouth Natural Grid Project, Council and National Trust rangers, apprentices and volunteers have been making their own changes to the river, including 40 leaky dams which reconnect the river to the flood plain mimicking the work of the beavers to slow the flow of water and create habitat for wildlife and reduce flooding.

Find out more about the beavers in this series of videos created by the team who look after the site here:

Read the full report

The Green Minds project was funded thanks to €4million grant from the European Regional Development Fund under their Urban Innovative Actions Programme and includes the University of Plymouth, Real Ideas Organisation, Arts University Plymouth, Devon Wildlife Trust, The Data Place and the National Trust as partners.