1. Climate Change and Beaver Activity: How Restoring Nature’s Engineers Can Alleviate Problems
By Suzanne Fouty
Variability is a defining principle of our global climate. Both species and stream/riparian ecosystems evolved with that reality. There have always been years when the rains did not come or years when the rains came too soon or too much. Species responded by developing survival mechanisms,
such as wide distributions and variable timing of flight or spawning. These mechanisms combined with complex, widely-distributed, highly stable stream/riparian ecosystems, allowed species to survive even when local groups disappeared due to a disturbance. Beavers were key in the development of these complex and highly stable ecosystems essential for species survival.
Beaver trapping was the first large-scale EuroAmerican alteration of
Euro-Americans arrived on a continent teeming with abundance. Their quest for commodities and wealth drove Euro-Americans to systematically and rapidly log, mine, graze, beaver trap, farm, dam rivers, etc. They systematically and rapidly stripped watersheds of all the features that had provided complexity, stability and water retention capability.
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2. Beavers Open Savings Accounts
Wetlands, especially Peatlands, Store Carbon Best
If you canoe or kayak often, you’ve probably paddled by boggy areas with carnivorous pitcher plants — and signs of beaver nearby. Beaver dams on streams adjacent to boggy peatlands can help keep them water-logged, and safeguard the enormous amount of carbon stored there. Wetlands, and especially peatlands, are rated as the world’s best ecosystems for capturing and storing carbon dioxide. This is especially crucial during the on-going climate crisis because destroying wetlands add carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas, to the atmosphere.
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3. Leave It To Beavers In Washington
By Hannelore Sudermann
As we crunch through the snow in the hills above Winthrop, Steve Bondi 02 and Ryan Anderson ’08 are eager to see evidence that their project to improve riparian habitat and provide late-season water to the Methow Valley is working.
They’re building dams, but with the help of nature’s own unparalleled engineer—the beaver. The effort for a time seemed just a joke in the state capital—that of beavers building dams along rivers and streams in the Columbia River watershed to improve the hydrology of the region.
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4. Beaver Wetlands
By Sharon T. Brown and Suzanne Fouty
Effects Upon Wildlife and Water
A half-mile-long beaver dam in Canada made international news recently when satellite photos clearly showed the impact of Castor canadensis upon the earth. The beaver is one of the few species, besides humans, that build structures, such as the huge dam in Canada’s Wood Buffalo National Park, that are large enough to be visible from space. Today, only in highly remote locations of North America is it possible for nature’s engineers to create similarly impressive alterations of the landscape. Ecologist Jean Thie found the immense Alberta dam while scanning satellite
images for signs of climate change. This is fitting because restoring beaver
wetlands are one of the most effective and economical ways to minimize some potential impacts of climate change on wildlife habitat and the land’s hydrology, and thus human communities.
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5. Beaver and Climate Change Adaptation in North America
The reestablishment of American beaver (Castor canadensis; beaver) and its habitat is a viable and cost-effective climate change adaptation strategy. Due to the unique hydrological engineering accomplished by dam-building beaver, support and reestablishment of beaver constitute an important climate change adaptation tool in the United States. The information presented here demonstrates the critical roles beaver play in ecosystem structure and function and how those roles can contribute significantly to climate change adaptation strategies.
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6. Carbon Storage Associated With Beaver Dams
Landscape-scale carbon storage associated with beaver dams
By Ellen Wohl
Beaver meadows form when beaver dams promote
prolonged overbank flooding and floodplain retention of
sediment and organic matter. Extensive beaver meadows form
in broad, low-gradient valley segments upstream from glacial
terminal moraines. Surveyed sediment volume and total
organic carbon content in beaver meadows on the eastern side
of Rocky Mountain National Park are extrapolated to create a
first-order approximation of landscape-scale carbon storage in
these meadows relative to adjacent uplands. Differences in
total organic carbon between abandoned and active beaver
meadows suggest that valley-bottom carbon storage has
declined substantially as beaver have disappeared and
meadows have dried. Relict beaver meadows represent ~8%
of total carbon storage within the landscape, but the value was
closer to 23% when beaver actively maintained wet meadows.
These changes reflect the general magnitude of cumulative
effects in heterotrophic respiration and organic matter
oxidation associated with historical declines in beaver
populations across the continent. Citation: Wohl, E. (2013),
Landscape-scale carbon storage associated wi
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