As the heatwave continues to engulf Britain, a small area of Sussex is keeping fresh and hydrated.
And it’s all down to a pair of beavers.
In February, a pair of the critters were introduced to Knepp Wildland – a rewilding project on former farmland in West Sussex.
Confined to a two-hectare space (it’s illegal to release them into the country) the beavers have set about making themselves at home.
And the fact is their impact on the landscape is having a beneficial effect on the surrounding ecosystem.
During the earlier months of the year, the beaver’s dams have turned a small river into an intricate network of ponds and channels. As the weather turns dry, the trickles of water from newly-formed ponds through the dams is helping to irrigate the surrounding lands.
‘We’ve seen really amazing results just in the five months they’ve been here,’ said Penny Green, a resident ecologist at Knepp Wildland.
‘The beavers have already made a little network of ponds from the damming that they’ve done.’
Painstakingly built with sticks, gnawed branches, mud and other organic matter, the dams nevertheless are imperfect. Over time, they let water through that seeps into the landscape that – in the midst of this heatwave – isn’t getting any rainfall.
‘They’re providing opportunities during the summer months because they have slightly leaky dams,’ Penny explained.
‘There will be a bit of water trickling out when there perhaps wouldn’t be so much water in our landscapes during drought years like this year.’
‘So they’ll be letting a little bit of water out of these dams throughout the summer.’
Moreover, because these newly-created ponds are deeper than the river that existed before, the water stays cooler. It also attracts birds, amphibians and other creatures to it.
‘Beavers create all sorts of wonderful habitats for other wildlife, but in turn they also provide lots of ecosystem services that helps us as humans,’ Penny told Phys.org.
‘They help to alleviate flooding by holding back water especially in heavy downpour events where we get heavy rain.’
‘They are holding on to water and slowing the flow down, which is great.’
The team at Knepp have a licence to keep the beavers on site for the next five years.
There is an ongoing consultation in the UK about the future of the creatures and whether or not the animals should be released into the wild.