The beaver is a Canadian icon. To some it’s also a royal pest.
Beavers are more than just a nuisance, though. They are also important engineers of our environment.
A new study published in the journal PLOS One has discovered just how important beavers are in protecting habitat.
Why are beavers considered pests by some?
I know some people are annoyed with beavers because they chop down trees, flood areas with dams and can generally not be on the same page as a landowner about how to engineer the land. But they are gaining more and more acceptance as important natural engineers of their environment.
Beavers, of course, are compelled to build dams, and research has revealed that beavers build dams near the sound of rushing water.
Of course, they build dams to provide habitat and protection for their young. And, as a consequence, they can stop a rushing river in its tracks and force water to slow to a crawl creating a beaver pond.
What role do beaver ponds play in the ecosystem?
There are lots of species that rely on beavers to engineer the environment to suit their own needs. Creatures like the Sandhill crane, the mule deer, and, most importantly, juvenile fish. Not only that, when there is a beaver pond, the water is able to be better absorbed by the land, allowing it to resist both droughts and floods a lot better.
For a long time, it was believed that beaver ponds increased the temperature of water in the ecosystem due to its greater surface area absorbing more energy from the sun. That was always thought as a possible way that beaver ponds could be damaging the surrounding ecosystem.
This assumption has been overturned by new research.
Nick Weber is with Eco-Logical and his team conducted experiments along Bridge Creek, Oregon.
“As the volume of surface water increases,” he says, “it just takes a lot longer for streams to heat up…