A keystone species, the North American beaver, Castor candensis, are vital ecosystem engineers. Their dams create wetlands that are among the most biologically-productive ecosystems in the world, comparable to coral reefs and rainforests. According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, over 50% of America’s freshwater wetlands have been lost to draining and/or filling, and much of the remaining wetlands have been degraded. In the American West, wetlands cover only 2% of the land but support 80%of the biodiversity.
The wetlands created and watersheds restored by the natural engineering of beavers behave as “kidneys” for the planet, and the biodiversity they support is analogous to the value of rainforests and coral reefs.
The presence of beavers throughout North America has the potential to reverse the most devastating impacts of human-made climate change. Through their activities, beavers can:
- increase biodiversity
- improve water quality, filtering out contaminants and heavy metals
- store precious water in arid regions
- reduce downstream flooding damage from large storm events
- lessen the impact of increased wildfires
- restore watershed health
- regulate stream flows
- replenish drinking water aquifers
- store significant amounts of water that ranchers, farmers, and other users can draw upon during times of drought
- stabilize the water table
- repair eroded stream channels
- promote salmonid (salmon and trout) recovery
“A beaver pond is more than a body of water supporting the needs of a group of beavers, but the epicenter of a whole dynamic ecosystem.”