Flooding across the world has increased dramatically in the last few decades. As more and more UK communities are hit, investigations across the country are underway in a race to find solutions.

But why are we getting worse and more frequent flooding now? It is down to our warming planet. Dr Linda Seight from Oxford University explained how due to the warming atmosphere, more moisture is held when it rains, leading to heavier rainfall and an increased chance of flooding. This growing problem isn’t going to get better either. Within the UK alone around 1 in 6 households are located in flood-prone areas and the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology revealed that in 2023 the UK experienced the wettest July and December on record. 

Man-made and expensive.

Many communities have already begun to plan for future flooding. In the North Yorkshire town of Skipton, a multi-million-pound scheme to reduce the risk of flooding to homes and businesses has been developed. 

Led by the Environment Agency, over 350 homes and 160 businesses are set to have 100 years of protection from nearby rivers that rise quickly with heavy rain. A dam at Waller Hill was built at nine metres high and 105 metres wide and is able to hold over 16 million gallons. Along with the dam, other flood defences such as raised walls were built around car parks and children’s play areas. Although the dam was built to reduce the risk of damage, the town knows they can’t stop the power of nature itself.  

This project for this one small town in Yorkshire costs a small fortune. Although manmade solutions are viable, they are also expensive. But many natural methods could be put to use. Protecting and rewilding areas across the UK can dramatically alter protection against flooding. Natural ecosystems such as wetlands that contain marshes, bogs, and fens soak up large amounts of water in wet months and release it during drier months. These habitats have been reduced by 90 per cent in the last 100 years and, along with it many of its species, are rapidly being lost. One species, in particular, may be able to bring back these environments as well as provide alternative buffers against future flooding. 

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Nature’s way.

Beavers are known as a Keystone Species. This means that they are able to alter and create an environment in which other species are able to live and thrive in. Many know their natural ability to build dams which is exactly what Wildlife Trusts across the UK are hoping to see after reintroducing these creatures back into the wilds of Britain. And the benefits don’t stop at bringing back depleted habitats and species.

(Tim Umphreys/ Unsplash)

Beavers may be the key to our ever-increasing flood problem across the country. Monitored correctly they could act as a buffer to heavy rainfall as they build dams which regulate river flow. Studies from the US and areas of Belgium have shared their success stories showcasing the slower rate at which water flows when beaver dams are introduced. 

They were once found throughout the entire UK but were hunted to extinction at the start of the 16th century for their fur. It wasn’t until 2009 that the first beavers were reintroduced after a 400-year absence. Since then, many have been reintroduced, including the very well-studied family groups residing in Devon. Looked after by the Devon Wildlife Trust and the University of Exeter, the area has experienced up to 60 per cent in reduced flood flow since their introduction. 

It is predicted that the floods the UK experiences will  worsen as climate change increases in severity. There are numerous ways the country can adapt and reduce the risks of flood destruction, but many are expensive and take years to build. However, with the proper planning and management, the further reintroduction of Beavers nationwide could provide a very cost-effective measure against flood prevention across the UK in the future. So perhaps it’s time to let Beavers do what they do best.