Importance of beavers (Castor fiber and C. canadensis) to ecosystems functioning is widely acknowledged by numerous studies. Both species are classical examples of the key stone species (ecosystem engineers) that shape landscape, influence material cycling and energy flow, alter habitat structure. These topics are actively discussed among scientists and practicians because beavers do their works very similarly like humans do – they disturb ecosystems.
Tradition of international beaver symposia (IBS) has a long history. Numerous scientific and practical events have been held in America and Eurasia, however, the schedule of recent symposia was more strongly defined starting from the First European Beaver Symposium held in 1997 in Bratislava, Slovakia. So far, these symposia are organized every three years. In 2000 beaver symposium was hosted by Poland, in 2003 – by the Netherlands, in 2006 – by Germany, in 2009 – by Lithuania, in 2012 – by Croatia and in 2015 – by Russia. The next one – in Denmark, the country which has reintroduced beavers fairly recently, just less than 20 years ago.
Beavers currently survive the large-scale recovering process throughout the species range. Status of beaver abundance is very variable from country to country, from region to region. Actively promoted by man, the beaver restoration process has discovered also negative aspects, e.g., extending native range of North American beaver, uncontrolled mixing of different subspecies, illegal and uncontrolled reintroductions, etc.
In addition to biological issues, beavers do influence human interests in many ways. Beaver damages (flooding of agricultural land, undermining of banks, cutting down trees etc.), beaver hunting, legal protection, public responsibility (compensation, aid, permissions..) are handled quite different in the different countries.
This is why scientists and environmental managers face very different problems concerning restoration or management of beaver populations. IBS is a very useful platform to share knowledge and experience. Nearly 100 of attendees from many countries take this opportunity at every IBS event.
Dr. Alius Ulevičius
Member of the scientific committee of the IBS
Vilnius University, Lithuania