What is the future for beavers in Britain?

Could beavers be successfully re-established in Britain and what affect would they have on local biodiversity?

Beavers are ecosystem engineers which, by building dams and channels, create and maintain wetlands. Through these activities, beavers have the potential to increase local biodiversity, reduce downstream flooding, and improve water quality. In Britain, beavers were hunted to extinction hundreds of years ago. Recent interest in rewilding has led to a number of small-scale beaver restoration projects.

The outcomes of these projects, combined with a controversial unofficial release of beavers in Scotland and Devon, raise questions about the future of beavers in Britain. This meeting will discuss whether beavers should be restored in sufficient numbers and across a wide enough area to allow them to fulfil their potential as ecosystem engineers. What would be the consequences of beaver restoration for biodiversity, and for waterway users such as anglers? Could beaver restoration contribute to climate-change adaptation by acting as a natural flood defence? And, if beavers become re-established in Britain, would European conservation agreements lead to a legal requirement to conserve them in the long term?


Martin Gaywood, Scottish Natural Heritage
Beavers in Scotland - 20 years work in 20 minutes

Mark Elliot, Devon Wildlife Trust
Beavers in Devon - an introduction to the River Otter Beaver Trial and findings from the enclosed beaver project

Roisin Campbell-Palmer, Royal Zoological Society of Scotland
Beaver restoration in Britain - the importance of founder selection

Chaired by Rosie Woodroffe, ZSL

See talk abstracts: PDF icon Talk abstracts - What is the future for beavers in Britain? 8 Dec 2015 (387.79 KB)

Attending this event

  • This Science and Conservation Event is free to attend and booking is not required.
  • Venue: Huxley Lecture Theatre, Main Meeting Rooms, ZSL London Zoo. See map
  • Underground – Camden Town Station; Nearest bus - no. 274
  • Doors open at 5pm for a 6pm start.
  • Seats are allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.

Book a 3-course dinner with the speakers


  • Contact Jennifer Howes, Scientific Events Coordinator jennifer.howes@zsl.org; 0207 449 6227
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