UCL Department of Geography


Olly Van Biervliet

Research Title

The effects of the Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) on hydrology and nutrient dynamics in UK headwater streams

More About Olly

Olly’s research interests lie in the sustainable management and restoration of aquatic systems. He has a background in delivering of river restoration projects in the UK for various Rivers Trusts. His research has addressed the impacts of land use on riverine aquatic invertebrate assemblages in Tanzania and urban and rural and urban water quality mitigation measures in the UK.


  • PhD Student, UCL Department of Geography, University College London, Gower Street London WC1E 6BT. September 2016 –
  • MSc in Aquatic Science, UCL Department of Geography. 2012 -13
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Education, Oxford University. 2008-9
  • BSc (hons), Marine Biology, School of Environmental Sciences, University of Liverpool. 2004-7

Selected employment

  • Manager and Projects Officer, South East Rivers Trust, 2014-2016
  • Project Officer, Norfolk Rivers Trust, 2013-14
  • Visiting Lecturer, Saint Mary’s University London, 2013-14
  • School teacher (Biology A level), d’Overbroeck’s College, Oxford, 2009-12
  • Van Biervliet, O., McInnes, R.J., Lewis-Phillips, J. et al. Can an Integrated Constructed Wetland in Norfolk Reduce Nutrient Concentrations and Promote In Situ Bird Species Richness?. Wetlands (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13157-019-01247-7
  • Van Biervliet, O, Wiśniewski, K, Daniels, J, & Vonesh, JR (2009). Effects of Tea Plantations on Stream Invertebrates in a Global Biodiversity Hotspot in Africa. Biotropica, 41(4), 469–475

Selected Reports

  • Van Biervliet, O Gilbert, N, Beale Collins, L, Davies. (2016) London Total Suspended Solids Project, Technical Report supported by Defra
  • Van Biervliet, O, Webb, D, Davies, B (2015). Silt and Suds, Improving Water Quality in an Urban Environment. Technical Report for the Environment Agency assessing the effectiveness of pollution-reduction measures.
  • Van Biervliet, O (2014). Five Water Framework Directive Catchment Plans: Rivers: Hun, Mun, Burn, Ingol, Heacham.
Research Interests

The Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) is the first mammal to be reintroduced to the UK, gaining native status in Scotland in 2016, and gaining legal protection on 1 May 2019. Beavers are habitat engineers known to substantially alter river hydrology and nutrient cycling. Beaver dams slow water and route it through a variety of flow pathways causing increased surface water storage and, in some cases, the potential to change surface-groundwater exchanges with implications for local water table elevations on adjacent floodplains.

Other effects may include reduced downstream peak discharge, and increased base flows. The importance of these processes at larger spatial scales (e.g. catchment scale) is largely not understood. The coupling of hydrological conditions present in beaver ponds with biogeochemical activity means ponds are hotspots for nutrient cycling.

Significant denitrification, methane release and landscape-scale carbon storage are reported. We suggest that these effects result from reduced flow velocities which cause carbon and nutrient-rich fine sediment to be trapped, enhancing microbial activity, and giving rise to reduced chemical conditions in sediments.

The proposal is to:

  1. Gather hydrological field data sufficient to construct physically-based and spatially distributed numerical models to better understand hydrological processes at a range of scales
  2. Investigate the potential of a flow device to address the perceived problematic effects of beaver ponds on agriculture
  3. Investigate sediment characteristics in ponds along a gradient of ages.

Other Projects

  • The use of a constructed wetland to improve water quality in final effluent from a sewage treatment works.
  • The effectiveness of urban diffuse pollution mitigation methods including hydrodynamic vortex chambers, Smart Sponges, and mycofiltration.
Research Funding