M.Res. in Ecology and Environmental Biology (University of Glasgow 2008-09)
B.Sci. (with Honours) in Zoology (University of Glasgow 2004-08)
Ph.D in Freshwater Ecology (University of Stirling 2014)
Alan has now moved to the University of Glasgow (link)
Supervisors: Dr Nigel Willby, Prof David Gilvear
Start Date: 1st October 2010
3A124A Cottrell Building
School of Natural Sciences
University of Stirling
Tel: +44 (0) 1786 466 542
Email: Alan Law
Evaluation of the ecological impacts of beaver reintroduction on aquatic systems
At the beginning of the 20th century exploitation of the Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) was occurring across Europe and Asia and there were estimated to be only ~1200 animals left in eight isolated populations. Through reintroductions, translocations and legal protection the Eurasian beaver is now present in 29 countries occupying much of their former range with a total estimated global population range of 634,000-742,000.
After extensive consultation and planning the Eurasian beaver was officially reintroduced to Knapdale Forest, Argyll in May 2009 after an absence in Scotland of at least 400 years. The five year trial is being independently monitored by a number of partners with the University of Stirling involved with monitoring potential beavers effects on aquatic vegetation, river hydrology and river habitat. Though collections are also present on private estates throughout the UK.
As the largest mammal ever to be formally reintroduced to the United Kingdom and with the potential to effect surrounding habitats and species diversity through ecosystem engineering it essential that any effects are evaluated. The PhD will focus on a number of areas where beaver have direct or indirect effects with observations and experiments being carried out within the trial area at Knapdale, Argyll and also on a private collection in Perthshire.
Beavers consume large quantities of macrophytes (aquatic plants) when available during spring, summer and autumn months, yet this foraging subject is understudied relative to terrestrial foraging patterns. Experiments at a private estate in Perthshire will document the effect of beaver exclusion on macrophyte diversity and biomass. Cafeteria-style feeding trials have also been carried out to observe seasonal food preferences.
|Above: Exclosed areas on the right hand side of each picture and areas open to beaver foraging on the left.||Selective foraging and impacts by beaver on European white waterlily (Nymphaea alba) are currently being studied at Knapdale.|
|kayak surveys within stands of N. alba using floating quadrats||N. alba petioles after pad removal by beaver|
Beavers have the potential to change their surrounding environment through tree felling and dam building that often creates geomorphological and hydrological heterogeneity across the landscape. This could have implications for macro-invertebrates if the hydrological regime changes from lotic to lentic, or if water level rises creating new habitats.
|Examples of two beaver dams in Scotland|
|Beaver built dams have the capacity to flood areas behind the dam often creating shallow, macrophyte rich areas (left picture). These habitats are ideal for predatory coleoptera (water beetles) particularly diving beetles (Right; the great diving beetle,Dytiscus marginalis male). A comparative study of coleoptera between natural wetlands and beaver created wetlands was conducted in Sweden to observe potential differences in species diversity and abundance.|
Law, A., Jones, K. C. & Willby, N. J. (2014). Beaver influenced changes in macro-invertebrate diversity and abundance at multiple scales (under review).
Willby, N. J., Law, A. Foster, G. N., Ecke, F. & Levanoni, O. (2014) Engineering biodiversity: beavers modify macrophyte and beetle richness
and diversity at multiple spatial scales (under review).
Bull, C. Law, A. (2014). Salmonid and invertebrate monitoring of Cambusmore gravel mine. Technical Report. Centre for River Ecosystem
Science (in prep.).
Perfect, C., Law, A. (2014) Invertebrate monitoring of Barhill Windfarm. Technical Report. Centre for River Ecosystem Science (in prep.).
Bull, C. Perfect, C, Law, A. & Watt, J. (2014) Ground-truthing the quality assessment of walkover lamprey habitat surveys. Scottish
Natural Heritage commissioned report (under review).
Willby, N., Perfect, C., Law, A. (2014) European beaver trial reintroduction to Knapdale: final report on the aquatic and semi-aquatic
macrophytes. Scottish Natural Heritage commissioned Report (under review).
Willby, N., Perfect, C., Law, A. (2014) European beaver trial reintroduction to Knapdale: River Habitat Surveys and Fluvial
Geomorphology. Scottish Natural Heritage commissioned Report. (under review).
Perfect, C., Law, A., (2013) Invertebrate monitoring of Nutberry Windfarm. Technical Report. Centre for River Ecosystem Science.
Perfect, C., Law, A., (2012) Invertebrate monitoring of Muirhall Windfarm. Technical Report. Centre for River Ecosystem Science.
Law, A. and Willby, N.J. (2014). Engineering biodiversity: the return of the beaver. FBA News, No. 62 Spring.
Law, A. and Willby, N.J. Creating heterogeneity from homogeneity: the ability of beaver dams to modify macroinvertebrate richness and composition. 92nd Scottish Freshwater Group, Stirling, April 2014.
Law, A. and Willby, N.J. Engineering diversity: impacts of beavers on aquatic vegetation. 91st Scottish Freshwater Group, Stirling, October 2013.
Law, A. and Willby, N.J. Engineering diversity: impacts of beavers on aquatic vegetation. The ecology of inland waters, Donana, Spain, October 2013.
Law, A., Bunnefeld, N & Willby, N.J. Selectivity and impact of beaver foraging on aquatic plants. 90th Scottish Freshwater Group, Stirling, April 2013
Law, A. & Willby, N.J. Selectivity and impact of beaver foraging on aquatic plants. Species Action Framework Conference, Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh. November 2012
Law, A., Willby, N.J. & Gilvear, D. J. Effects of foraging by beaver (Castor fiber L.) on aquatic vegetation in Scotland. 6th International Beaver Symposium, Ivanic-grad, Croatia. September 2012
Law, A., Willby, N.J. & Gilvear, D. J. The impact of beaver (Castor fiber) foraging on aquatic vegetation. 88th Scottish Freshwater Group, Stirling. April 2012
Law, A., Clovis T., Lalsingh, G. R. and Downie, J. R. (2010). The influence of lunar, tidal and nocturnal phases on the nesting activity of leatherbacks (Dermochelys coriacea) in Tobago, West Indies. Marine Turtle Newsletter 127: 12-17.
Law, A. and Ayre, J. (2010). Sea turtles in Tobago: An update. British Chelonia Group Newsletter, February 2010.