Cropton Forest Case Study

The settlements downstream of Cropton Forest have suffered severe flooding in the last 20 years. The most serious flood in 2007 caused roughly £7 million of damage to homes and businesses. Man-made leaky dams have been effective in holding back floodwater, however they are expensive and time consuming to maintain. In April 2019 a pair of beavers were introduced to a 10 hectare enclosure encompassing over 800 metres of stream.

They had 2 kits in 2019 and 2020, 4 kits in 2021 and 2 kits in 2022. The 2019 juveniles were relocated in spring to other projects in England. They are now a family of 10. Over 40 volunteers have contributed over 1000 hours of work, including surveying the existing biodiversity and preparing the area for beaver reintroduction. Other local wildlife groups have also been involved in biodiversity surveying, including the Pickering Forests Bird Ringing Group, Yorkshire Mammal Society and the local Butterfly Conservation group.

This project is unique because the beavers have been introduced to a stream where there are already man-made leaky dams, and the main purpose of the trial was to see how the beavers would interact with these structures.The site is being monitored by scientists from the University of Exeter and research has already been published on the effects of beavers on water flow. Other academic institutes involved include University of Hull (eDNA monitoring and beaver behaviour studies) University of Teesside (botanical monitoring and virtual tour development), University of Leeds (laser scanning topographical changes and drone surveys) and Imperial College London (carbon sequestration studies). Frogspawn has increased from just 6 clumps of frogspawn before the beavers were introduced to an uncountable number of clumps in 2021.

This has provided a food source for up to 15 herons, an otter family, badgers, and owls. Bat numbers in the area around the pond have increased significantly during the 3 years of the project. Noctule bats have been recorded for the first time in 30 years. The felling of trees has enabled the growth of foxgloves and other vegetation and the site has seen an increase in aquatic and wetland species including water plantation, tufted forget-me-not, and water starwort.

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