River buffers

Beavers are just
part of the story

As part of our ongoing work in regenerating landscapes, we want to see buffer zones restored along river banks – helping others to make space for rivers, wildlife, the land and for communities to thrive.

What are we doing?

Beaver Trust has joined the Riverscapes partnership. A coalition of The Rivers Trust, National Trust, The Woodland Trust and Beaver Trust to restore River Buffers across England.

The Riverscapes partnership launched its first project ‘Woodlands for Water’ in 2021, supported by Defra, which aims to create 3,150 hectares of trees in six river catchments from Devon to Cumbria by 2025

What are buffers?

The edge, or interface between land and water is called the ‘riparian zone’.  A healthy riparian zone will have a mixture of herbaceous plants, shrubs and trees extending back from the bank for at least 10 metres, preferably more. These areas are called ‘buffer zones’.

Why are they important?

Rivers can be fantastic corridors for wildlife if there is good habitat both in the river and on the banks. A healthy riparian zone is crucial not only as wildlife habitat but for air and water quality, carbon sequestration and natural river function.

Beavers and buffers

The majority of human-beaver conflicts arise within 20m of the waters edge. In Bavaria, over 90% of beaver conflicts occur within 10m of the water, while 95% occur within 20m. Although conflicts further away than this are possible they are rare, and usually associated with an attractive food source. Closer to home, a study of beaver impact on woodland in Scotland over a 4 year period found that the majority of beaver foraging occurred within 10m of fresh water (Iason et al, 2014). By stepping back from the water’s edge and planting up these areas with native riparian trees or shrubs, or more cheaply, allowing natural regeneration to occur we can reinstate missing riparian habitats. This reduces the requirement for more distancing foraging for beavers and limits the impact of burrowing and canal construction.

Learn more about buffers

Following the award-winning Beavers Without Borders, Beaver Trust has collaborated once again with multi-award-winning filmmaker, Nina Constable, on a brand new documentary about making space for rivers in England, using this as a wider campaigns and education tool.  

This film introduces and explores the concept of ‘river buffers’ – a measure that may help restore our failing rivers back to health. Meeting experts and key voices in this vital discussion, a variety of questions are addressed: what are river buffers? What shapes do they take? How might they help? And what are the challenges to overcome if we are to implement them across the country? 

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