EDGES OF EXISTENCE
BBC Wildlife|March 2021
Riverside habitats are coming under scrutiny as the next big prospect on the rewilding landscape.
Andrew Griffiths
I am talking to James Wallace, CEO of the Beaver Trust, but we are not talking about beavers, we are talking about buffer strips. Wallace is quite animated about them, so much so that beavers hardly get a mention.

The Beaver Trust is all about the large-scale restoration of our river system. The Trust is so named, Wallace tells me, because the beaver is a “highly productive, hard-working, communal, familial organism” – all qualities that Wallace clearly admires. But the buffer strip is as integral to his vision for rivers as the charismatic little ‘ecosystem engineer’ that has so caught the public’s imagination.

Buffer strips are areas along riverbanks that are left to go wild – free from farming, intensive livestock grazing, or any other interference. On a map, think of them as making two ‘green’ strips alongside the ‘blue’ length of the river corridor.

Wallace has a dream: he wants to create 10,000ha of river buffer strips – that is a 20m-wide strip along both sides of 2,500km of river – within two years. What’s more, with the Beaver Trust and partners, he thinks he has assembled the team to do it.

“That might sound like an insanely huge idea, but that is what we are thinking about at the moment.” says Wallace, of a concept that could completely change the look of our landscape. “There’s no point going at things half-hearted, is there?”

Changing course

‘Insanely huge idea’ it may be, but it just might be the right time for it. We are in a climate and biodiversity emergency. Our withdrawal from the EU means that our whole way of funding agriculture is changing, from one largely based on subsidy to one of rewarding farmers for ‘public goods’ – for services to society such as providing clean water, habitat creation for wildlife, carbon sequestration and general space for well-being.

The Environment Bill currently passing through Parliament will enable Nature Recovery Networks. All the talk in conservation circles is now about connecting landscapes and connecting people with nature. It is within this climate of disruption to agricultural funding that Wallace is hoping to make his river buffer strips a designated Nature Recovery Network, and so a reality.

He and the Beaver Trust are developing innovative funding mechanisms to bring private money into nature conservation, so that it works for farmers and landowners, too. Wallace and his team, which includes financier and environmentalist Ben Goldsmith and ex-government minister Richard Benyon, are currently in talks with Defra about getting that first project off the ground. After that? Wallace’s big-picture thinking kicks in again: “100,000ha in the next 10 years, that is what we would like to see. That is 25,000km.” says Wallace.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM BBC WILDLIFEView All

Theme park could go ahead despite site's protected status

Swanscombe peninsula is designated as an SSSI but campaigners fear it is not enough to save the wildlife haven from proposed development.

2 mins read
BBC Wildlife
Spring 2021

MIKE DILGER'S - WILDLIFE WATCHING

In his series of great places to watch wildlife in the UK, the star of BBC One’s The One Show this month heads to our pebble-strewn shores to spot the species that thrive on shingle beaches.

3 mins read
BBC Wildlife
Spring 2021

Norway's star wolf moved for safety

Norway’s most famous wolf has been captured and moved south with a female companion to protect him from licensed killing.

1 min read
BBC Wildlife
Spring 2021

Helping hedgehogs

It may be the nation’s favourite mammal, but the hedgehog is rapidly vanishing from towns and countryside across the UK. Why have things gone so badly wrong for British hedgehogs? And, more importantly, what’s being done to help them?

10+ mins read
BBC Wildlife
Spring 2021

DISTURBANCE IN THE DEEP

With land resources rapidly depleting, eyes are turning to the seabed as a whole new source of metals. But at what cost to marine wildlife?

8 mins read
BBC Wildlife
Spring 2021

Cranes becoming more common

Record numbers of common cranes bred in the UK last year, with 64 pairs producing 23 chicks.

1 min read
BBC Wildlife
Spring 2021

Meet The Scientist - Lauriane Suyin Chalmin-Pui

Well-being fellow, Royal Horticultural Society and postdoctoral researcher, University of Sheffield

2 mins read
BBC Wildlife
Spring 2021

My Way Of Thinking - Mark Carwardine

The conservationist discusses Jair Bolsonaro’s actions concerning the Amazon rainforest and invites your thoughts on the subject.

3 mins read
BBC Wildlife
Spring 2021

Truth Or Fiction? It's Perfectly Safe To Airlift A Rhinoceros

Flying rhinos upside down looks ungainly but is it harmful, too? New research set out to find the answer.

1 min read
BBC Wildlife
Spring 2021

Gorillas In The Midst Of A Pandemic

Close encounters with tourists may be exposing great apes to COVID-19.

2 mins read
BBC Wildlife
Spring 2021
RELATED STORIES

RAISING THE BAR

The subtle, hands-off storytelling of HALF-LIFE 2 is still hard to beat.

3 mins read
PC Gamer US Edition
April 2021

SCOTTISH SOUNDINGS

A SPONTANEOUS CRUISE ALONG SCOTLAND’S WILD WEST COAST PROVED TO BE A VOYAGE OF SURPRISES FOR PHIL JOHNSON

10+ mins read
Yachting World
April 2021

A Wee Dram

There’s more to love about Scotland’s favorite libation once you discover the magic

6 mins read
Business Traveler
April/May 2021

Taking Scotland in Stride

A walk through the Highlands and Borders is the best way to touch this country’s history and nature

5 mins read
Business Traveler
December 2020/January 2021

Scotland Makes Periods Less Painful

The country is the first in the world to offer free, universal access to sanitary products

2 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
December 07, 2020

GEOLOGY 101 Columnar Basalt

A distinctive volcanic structure found throughout the world has been given fanciful names: “Organ Pipes” in Namibia and Victoria, Australia; “Kilt Rock” and “Samson’s Ribs” in Scotland; “Giant’s Causeway” in Northern Ireland; “Thunderstruck Rocks” in Romania; “Devils Tower” in Wyoming and “Paul Bunyan’s Woodpile” in Utah, USA; the “Baigong Pipes” in China; and the “Cliff of Stone Plates” in Vietnam. High-resolution satellite images have even shown similar as-yet-unnamed structures on Mars.

1 min read
Rock&Gem Magazine
December 2020

SHE'S GOT IT GOIN' ON

DRUMMER CINDY BLACKMAN SANTANA STEPS UP TO THE MICROPHONE ON HER NEW SOLO ALBUM, FEATURING HER FAMOUS HUSBAND AND OTHER BIG-NAME GUITARISTS.

8 mins read
GOLDMINE
November 2020

Bass of Tomorrow

We can think of a few string manufacturers who claim to make the best-sounding products in the world. Dr Jonathan Kemp doesn’t just make that claim—he can prove it, too. Hywel Davies is blinded with science...

2 mins read
Bass Player
July 2020

SONS OF THE REVOLUTION

Fifty years ago, the Shortboard Revolution saw the most radical design shifts in the history of surfcraft. Today, that same experimental spirit is alive and well in the surfing and shaping approaches of Torren Martyn and Simon Jones

10+ mins read
Surfer
Volume 61, Issue 1

NORTEAMÉRICA

El “milagro de la nación navajo” comenzó con la plena certeza de que Dios le estaba hablando a estos nativos norteamericanos de que ya era tiempo de un avivamiento entre su gente.

4 mins read
Mensajero Ala Blanca
Marzo/Abril de 2020