Topic Results: Water Storage

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EEAGER: a model that detects beaver-created wetlands in satellite and aerial imagery

Beavers are ecosystem engineers that can dramatically change the shape of the landscape and how water moves through it. They create and maintain wetland environments across North America and Eurasia in a wide variety of places, including mountains, deserts, coasts, forests, grasslands, shrublands, etc. Despite their large influence on the landscape, there are very few programs that monitor them at the landscape, regional, or continental scale. This is partially due to how much time it takes to find and identify beaver dams in satellite and aerial images. To make it easier for us to find and understand the influence of beavers at larger scales, we built a model that can automatically find beaver dams in satellite and aerial imagery. While our model is trained to find beaver dams, this type of model has promise for finding other landscape features too. The model isn’t perfect, but it is a strong starting point and will continue to improve as more people use it.

Relics of beavers past: time and population density drive scale-dependent patterns of ecosystem engineering

Like many ecological processes, natural disturbances exhibit scale-dependent dynamics that are largely a function of the magnitude, frequency and scale at which they are assessed. Ecosystem engineers create patch-scale disturbances that affect ecological processes, yet we know little about how these effects scale across space or vary through time. Here, we investigate how patch disturbances by beavers Castor canadensis, ecosystem engineers renowned for their pond-creation behavior, affect ecological processes across space and time. We evaluated how beaver population recovery influenced surface water dynamics in relation to population density over 70 years across multiple spatial scales (pond, watershed and regional) in northern Minnesota. Surface water area was positively related to population density at the watershed scale; however, despite variation in beaver densities (and therefore surface water area) at the watershed scale, regional-scale surface water area was stable through time. This stability appears to have been driven by asynchronous beaver density fluctuations among watersheds, combined with the increasing importance of abandoned ponds. Beavers initially created and occupied larger ponds with greater surface water area, but through time shifted towards occupying smaller ponds. As ponds accumulated on the landscape proportionally more surface water was stored within abandoned ponds, which offset the smaller size of occupied ponds. Beaver engineering – driven by density-dependent mechanisms and the legacy effects from abandoned ponds – not only follows general patterns of patch disturbance dynamics by creating a spatial mosaic of patches, but the organism-created mosaic also appears to generate ecological stability at greater spatial scales. We suggest restoring beavers to landscapes is a viable method for increasing surface water storage and will ultimately help advance numerous conservation and rewilding objectives. Our study demonstrates that ecosystem engineering effects can be scale-dependent, indicating researchers should evaluate the ecological impact of engineers across diverse spatiotemporal scales to fully understand their functional roles in ecosystems.

Beaver: The North American freshwater climate action plan

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 restorationfor example, strategic coexistence, relocation, and mimicryremains 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.

A Review of Two Novel Water-Tight Beaver Dam Analogs (WTBDA) to Restore Eroded Seasonal Creeks in Drain Tile Zones to Permanent Beaver Wetlands

Reducing nutrient runoff in streams is an important task to reduce algae blooms and associated environmental damage in large waterbodies. Beaver Dam Analogs (WTBDA) are an means to address this problem. These Water Tight Beaver Dam Analogs (WTBDA) present a novel approach to this technique that also aim to restore eroded seasonal creeks to perennial wetlands.

To What Extent Might Beaver Dam Building Buffer Water Storage Losses Associated with a Declining Snowpack?

This thesis provides a Beaver Dam Surface Water Estimation Algorithm, a model that takes observation data of 500 beaver dams to quantify the distribution of dam sizes, then using that data to develop a model for predicting water storage. While the water storage provided by beaver dams is only a small fraction of expected snow water equivalent loss, it is not insubstantial and may prove beneficial for ecosystems where human-made reservoirs are not available to regulate hydrologic regimes.

Influence of Beavers on Stream Fish Assemblages: Effects of Pond Age and Watershed Position

We used a spatial survey of fish assemblage structure in streams and beaver ponds to: (1) determine the effects of beavers on fish assemblage structure at the reach and drainage basin scales, and (2) assess the influences of pond age, watershed position, and pond environment on fish assemblage structure within beaver ponds.


Hydraulic Modeling of Beaver Dams and Evaluation of Their Impacts on Flood Events

In this study, we modeled 12 beaver dam cascade scenarios in two catchments for eight flood events with a two-dimensional (2D) hydrodynamic model.


Effect of beaver dams on the hydrology of small mountain streams: Example from the Chevral in the Ourthe Orientale basin, Ardennes, Belgium

This research focuses on the hydrological effects of a series of six beaver dams on the Chevral River, a second order tributary of the Ourthe Orientale River in a forested area of the Ardennes.

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.

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Alteration of Stream Temperature by Natural and Artificial Beaver Dams

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.

Beaver-induced spatiotemporal patch dynamics affect landscape-level environmental heterogeneity

Study of flood dynamics created by American beaver (C. canadensis K.) in a southern boreal landscape in Finland in


Beaver dams, hydrological thresholds, and controlled floods as a management tool in a desert riverine ecosystem, Bill Williams River, Arizona

Testing the hypothesis that controlled floods intended to drive the fluvial geomorphic and hydrologic processes necessary
for native tree recruitment will simultaneously destroy beaver dams.


Preston rancher restoring beaver to creek

Idaho rancher, Jay Wilde, and Joe Wheaton from Utah State University use BRAT, beaver restoration assessment tool, and identified good beaver habitat to help restore Birch Creek to year-round stream flow.

Beaver power provides year-long water to Idaho ranch

Idaho rancher, Jay Wilde, partnered with Anabranch Solutions to build BDAs, and the USFS and Idaho Fish & Game to relocate beavers into Birch Creek to help restore year-round stream flow.

Habitat engineering by beaver benefits aquatic biodiversity and ecosystem processes in agricultural streams

Dam building by beaver in degraded environments can improve physical and biological diversity
when viewed at a scale encompassing both modified and unmodified habitats.

Beaver dams: A free conservation practice for water quality enhancement?

Beaver activity (i.e., damming of streamflow) holds significant potential to impact water quality, specifically in-stream nutrient processing.

Beaver: Nature’s ecosystem engineers

This review summarizes how beaver impact ecosystem structure and geomorphology, hydrology and water resources, water quality, freshwater ecology, and humans and society.

Project: Hydrological Impact of Beaver Habitat Restoration in the Milwaukee River Watershed

A comprehensive study evaluating how restoring beaver dams could significantly protect the city of Milwaukee from future flood vents and the significant cost savings of this nature-based management approach versus traditional flood prevention engineering.

Euro-American Beaver Trapping and Its Long Term Impact on Drainage Network Form and Function, Water Abundance, Delivery, and System Stability

Examines the long-term impact of historic beaver trapping in the United States on stream systems, the role of beaver trapping in arroyo formation in the American Southwest, why the significance of beavers was missed by the U.S. General Land Office surveys in the late 1700s to mid 1800s, and how that oversight impacted later researchers in the 1950s and 1960s as the study of fluvial geomorphology and hydraulic geometry emerged.

Tags:  erosion, arroyo formation, hydraulic geometry, channel incision, beaver trapping, General Land Office surveys