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Experts stunned by discovery in rainforest 15 years after reintroduction of beavers: '[They] may have created the right habitat'

"Frankly, we're not as good at it as beavers."

"Frankly, we're not as good at it as beavers."

Photo Credit: iStock

Bringing back endangered wildlife and reinvigorating the environment? Leave it to the eager beavers, as experts in Scotland discovered from the optimistic results of a recent project, reported the Guardian. The choice to return beavers to one of the region's Knapdale rainforests 15 years ago "may have created the right habitat for the area's endangered water voles to flourish." 

By the end of the 19th century, beavers were nearly extinct from hunting. However, these reestablishment efforts are allowing their population to grow.

Why beavers? Well, as PBS noted, beavers are "incredible environmental change agents" and "might just be nature's greatest engineer[s]." It's exactly what happened in the Knapdale rainforest as beavers constructed dams where water voles — "one of [Scotland's] most threatened native animals," per the Guardian, could build habitats and hide from predators. 

"This more complex boundary between water and land could be excellent for water voles," John Taylor, the west region area wildlife manager for Forestry and Land Scotland, told the Guardian. 

Wildlife ranger Pete Creech, who works with the Heart of Argyll Wildlife Organization, commented on this talent for wetland creation in the report, stating, "The human creation of wetlands is an extremely costly undertaking and, frankly, we're not as good at it as beavers." Per Ramsar, the intergovernmental Convention on Wetlands, these environments are "vital" for humans, plants, and animals to survive.

Though wetlands, according to Ramsar, "are indispensible for [their] countless benefits," including "freshwater supply, food and building materials … biodiversity, [and] flood control," they are becoming increasingly scarce worldwide. 

A March 2024 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report stated that "more than half of wetlands in the lower 48 states are gone, and losses continue." It's encouraging to know that the catalyst for reestablishing these critical ecosystems — and thereby returning native wildlife, plants, and environmental safeguards to an area — could be another near-decimated population: the beavers. 

Not a busy beaver? You can still help restore wetlands. Suggestions from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries include volunteering in your community, choosing native plants for your yard, reducing trash by recycling properly, and swapping your toxic chemical products. Even by taking one small action in your day-to-day life, you're protecting wetlands — which, in turn, protect you. 

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