How beavers will transform the UK

It has been 400 years since Britain was home to beavers. Now they have returned, and they are rapidly proving their worth

With only GPS coordinates and my phone as a guide, I arrived at my bucolic destination: an unnamed road in the middle of Devon in southwest England, lined with thick hedges, low-hanging trees and open pastureland for miles around.

On a June morning with a thin cover of cloud above, I was here to meet Richard Brazier, an environmental scientist from University of Exeter, and his post-doctoral colleague Alan Puttock.

They are running a one-of-a-kind outdoor experiment.

After a short walk through fields and hopping over rusty gates, we came across the 3-hectare plot of land, contained behind a 12-volt electrified fence.

Five years ago, tall trees such as birch, aspen, and the occasional oak filled this small space, all lining the trickle of a highland stream.

The thick canopy cast a shadow on the plants below, sapping the life from their leaves.

Today, things have changed. The undergrowth is overgrown. Lopsided willow trees dominate, sending hundreds of shoots and stems into the air, each pining for the light above.

A thick blanket of green foliage erupts from the peaty soil.

Flora is blossoming, fauna flourishing. With their long cascade of pink bells, foxgloves rise high from the purple moor grass below. Butterflies and bees flutter from flower to flower.

"The biodiversity is booming," Brazier tells me as we approach the wire fence through a field of coarse grass and rushes. "It's alive."

Behind this fence, every species - plant and animal- depends on the behaviour of just one: the Eurasian beaver.

Since their introduction in March 2011, a breeding pair of these large rodents has been as busy as, well, beavers.

They have raised a family. They have built a lodge to live in and gouged deep canals through the land for getting out and about.

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