A report looking at how salmon and trout populations might be affected, if beavers are reintroduced to Scotland, was published earlier this week. The Beaver Salmonid Working Group (BSWG), which is made up of specialists from the fish biology, fishery, wildlife and river management sectors, report that there would be a range of impacts on salmon and trout as a result of beavers, and although further research is required, any successful reintroduction would depend on a management plan.
The report was prepared for the National Species Reintroduction Forum (NSRF). The Scottish Government will decide later this year whether to reintroduce beavers to Scotland, after receiving the results of a number of studies, including the five-year Scottish Beaver Trial in Knapdale, Argyll.
The report also found that beavers may affect salmon and trout positively by, for example, increasing the number of invertebrates available for fish to feed on, as well as increasing the variety of habitat for fish, including areas for rearing, overwintering and avoiding fast flows. However, negative impacts may include beaver dams sometimes limiting salmon and trout moving along waterways and the loss of valuable spawning habitat.
Ron Macdonald, NSRF chair and Scottish Natural Heritage’s (SNH) Director of Policy & Advice, said:
“We’re grateful to the BSWG for this comprehensive and useful report, and we’ll examine their recommendations carefully. The report will form an important part of the information that SNH is gathering for the Scottish Government for late May. We recognise that there are evidence gaps on the impact on salmon and trout and that, if the Scottish Government approves reintroducing beavers, a management plan will be required to quickly address any potential problems.”
BSWG chair, Roger Wheater, added:
“The BSWG recognise that beavers may benefit biodiversity in the Scottish countryside, but beaver dams on small rivers and streams may also, under some circumstances, create barriers to migratory fish, including the iconic salmon and trout, thus denying them access to their spawning areas. Our report has indicated that if beavers are to be reintroduced, clear and unequivocal management plans are needed. Without such plans, any possible benefits to salmonids from beavers may not be realised. Further research and monitoring of wild beavers will be essential as an aid to further planned releases and their management.”
For the full report, see http://www.snh.gov.uk/docs/A1514802.pdf