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Comparing translocated beavers used as passive restoration tools to resident beavers in degraded desert rivers
Wildlife translocation facilitates conservation efforts, including recovering imperiled species, reducing human–wildlife conflict, and restoring degraded ecosystems. Beaver (American, Castor canadensis; Eurasian, C. fiber) translocation may mitigate human–wildlife conflict and facilitate ecosystem restoration. However, few projects measure outcomes of translocations by monitoring beaver postrelease, and translocation to desert streams is relatively rare. We captured, tagged, and monitored 47 American beavers (hereafter, beavers) which we then translocated to two desert rivers in Utah, USA, to assist in passive river restoration. We compared translocated beaver site fidelity, survival, and dam-building behavior to 24 resident beavers. We observed high apparent survival (i.e., survived and stayed in the study site) for eight weeks postrelease of resident adult beavers (0.88 ± 0.08; standard error) and lower but similar apparent survival rates between resident subadult (0.15 ± 0.15), translocated adult (0.26 ± 0.12), and translocated subadult beavers (0.09 ± 0.08). Neither the pre- nor the post-translocation count of river reaches with beaver dams were predicted well by the Beaver Restoration Assessment Tool, which estimates maximum beaver dam capacity by river reach, suggesting beaver-related restoration is not maximized in these rivers. Translocated beavers exhibited similar characteristics as resident subadult beavers during dispersal; they were more vulnerable to predation and many emigrated from the study sites. High mortality and low site fidelity should be anticipated when translocating beavers, but even so, translocation may have contributed to additional beaver dams in the restoration sites, which is the common goal of beaver-assisted river restoration. Multiple releases at targeted restoration sites may eventually result in establishment and meet conservation objectives for desert rivers.
Hydrologic extremes dominate chemical exports from riparian zones and dictate water quality in major river systems. Yet, changes in land use and ecosystem services alongside growing climate variability are altering hydrologic extremes and their coupled impacts on riverine water quality. In the western U.S., warming temperatures and intensified aridification are increasingly paired with the expanding range of the American beaver—and their dams, which transform hydrologic and biogeochemical cycles in riparian systems. Here, we show that beaver dams overshadow climatic hydrologic extremes in their effects on water residence time and oxygen and nitrogen fluxes in the riparian subsurface. In a mountainous watershed in Colorado, U.S.A., we find that the increase in riparian hydraulic gradients imposed by a beaver dam is 10.7–13.3 times greater than seasonal hydrologic extremes. The massive hydraulic gradient increases hyporheic nitrate removal by 44.2% relative to seasonal extremes alone. A drier, hotter climate in the western U.S. will further expand the range of beavers and magnify their impacts on watershed hydrology and biogeochemistry, illustrating that ecosystem feedbacks to climate change will alter water quality in river systems.
Rivers and streams, when fully connected to their floodplains, are naturally resilient systems that are increasingly part of the conversation on nature-based climate solutions. Reconnecting waterways to their floodplains improves water quality and quantity, supports biodiversity and sensitive species conservation, increases flood, drought and fire resiliency, and bolsters carbon sequestration. But, while the importance of river restoration is clear, beaver-based restoration—for example, strategic coexistence, relocation, and mimicry—remains an underutilized strategy despite ample data demonstrating its efficacy. Climate-driven disturbances are actively pushing streams into increasingly degraded states, and the window of opportunity for restoration will not stay open forever. Therefore, now is the perfect time to apply the science of beaver-based low-tech process-based stream restoration to support building climate resilience across the landscape. Not every stream will be a good candidate for beaver-based restoration, but we have the tools to know which ones are. Let us use them.
Published in Beaversprite, Vol. 23, No. 1 (Spring 2008). Beavers Wetlands and Wildlife publication
Beaver Wetlands, Wet Meadows, and Ponds: Creating Wildfire Safety Zones and the Possibility of Survival
Published in Ripples in the Grande Ronde, Quarterly News from the Grande Ronde Model Watershed, Summer/Fall edition.
Examines current climate conditions and levels of public anxiety at increased drought and wildfire and the contributions beaver make to helping minimize impacts by storing water, creating complex habitat, and creating safe zones for wildlife and livestock during wildfire and afterwards.
This article highlights an important ecological benefit of beaver ponds, fire prevention. Research shows us that policymakers should consider protecting the beaver for its ecosystem services.
A virtual panel facilitated by Beaver Trust, featuring beaver experts from Beaver Trust, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, Heal Rewilding, and California State University. The purpose of the panel is to educate people on the contribution that beavers make in healing nature and combatting climate change.
Report on the results of continuous measurements of CO2 and CH4 fluxes made in the Boreal Ecosystem-Atmosphere Study during the ice-free season of the 1994 field campaign.
Beaver (Castor Canadensis) of the Salinas River: A Human Dimensions-Inclusive Overview for Assessing Landscape-Scale Beaver-Assisted Restoration Opportunities
Study to gather and produce human dimensions-inclusive, basin-centralized beaver knowledge through an explorative, benefits-maximizing approach to landscape-scale BAR opportunities assessment in the Salinas River.
In this study, we tracked beaver dam distributions and monitored water temperature throughout 34 km of stream for an eight-year period between 2007 and 2014. Our results suggest that creation of natural and/or artificial beaver dams could be used to mitigate the impact of human induced thermal degradation that may threaten sensitive species.
The research gathered in this paper discusses the beaver’s effects on: wetland carbon cycling, riparian forest structure, and biodiversity. This thesis also covers the relationship between beaver populations and the existence of wetlands, particularly the way in which beavers are an essential part of wetland ecosystems.
Potential mitigation of and adaptation to climate-driven changes in California’s highlands through increased beaver populations
Evaluating the potential for beaver to adapt to and to mitigate anticipated changes in California’s higher elevation land- and waterscapes.
Low-tech stream restoration gains using beaver dam mimicry gains popularity as an effective fix for ailing waterways in the American West.
Jeff Burrell with the Wildlife Conservation Society with demonstrates how installing inexpensive woody debris in streams to mimic beaver dams can encourage beaver damming to mitigate the negative effects of less snow melt summer runoff due to climate change in Montana streams.
The Beaver Trust presents a webinar on Climate Change effects on farming in Europe and how beavers can help mitigate some of the resultant drought and flood damage. 2021.
We aimed to recognise beaver-produced ecosystem services and quantify their theoretical value for the entire Northern Hemisphere.
Study that finds beaver-induced changes to habitat quality, stability, and connectivity may increase spotted frog population resistance and resilience to seasonal drought, grazing, non-native predators, and climate change.
Study on how beavers alter freshwater ecosystems and increase aquatic production to determine how these changes influence the magnitude and lateral dispersal of aquatic nutrients into terrestrial ecosystems
An Introduction to the Role of Beavers in a Warming World. Dr. Emily Fairfax’s ASWM presentation on the ability of beavers to combat climate change, such as reducing wildfire damage.
The final webinar in the ASWM-BLM Beaver Restoration Webinar Series showcases research which indicates that beavers are able to create and maintain wetlands resistant to both seasonal and multiyear droughts and that this landscape wetting and drought buffering goes on to reduce or prevent burning in wildfire. Perhaps instead of relying solely on human engineering and management to create and maintain fire?resistant landscape patches, we could benefit from beaver’s ecosystem engineering to achieve the same goals at a lower cost.