HAMPSHIRE researchers are leading the way on establishing whether beavers will harm native trout and salmon.

Concerns have been raised that beavers and their dams may negatively impact populations of migratory fish, impeding their movements and fragmenting important habitat.

There is currently no information available on impacts of beaver dams on the movement of fish in the UK but scientists at the University of Southampton in collaboration with Scottish Natural Heritage, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, and the Salmon and Trout Association aim to close this knowledge gap.

Professor Paul Kemp, from the University of Southampton and principal investigator on the project, said: “Beaver and fish interactions are complex. Having tagged and tracked several hundred fish it is clear that beaver ponds create excellent habitat for large trout, with trout being more than twice as abundant in the beaver dammed stream compared with the control.

He added: “The impact can be negative. The dams beaver build can block the movements of trout, at least temporarily, when flows are low. But trout do appear to move past them when water levels rise.after the rain.”