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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.
Low-tech stream restoration gains using beaver dam mimicry gains popularity as an effective fix for ailing waterways in the American West.
A new study concludes that, by building dams, forming ponds, and digging canals, beavers irrigate vast stream corridors and create fireproof refuges in which plants and animals can shelter. In some cases, the rodents’ engineering can even stop fire in its tracks.
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.
Fire and beaver in the boreal forest-grassland transition of western Canada – A case study from Elk Island National Park, Canada
This study found that prescribed fires negatively affected beaver lodge occupancy, an effect compounded with frequent burns. Though prescribed fire is considered an important landscape restoration process, the frequency of prescribed burning should be mitigated to ensure that flooding by beavers can continue as a key process that maintains wetlands on the landscape.
This publication, guided by the inseparable nature of streams and riparian ecosystems, emphasizes the interrelationships and continuity of riparian areas along with dependent wildlife and human services.
Beavers Buffering Blazes: The Potential Role of Castor canadensis in Mitigating Wildfire Impacts on Stream Ecosystems
The potential role of beavers in mitigating wildfire impacts on stream ecosystems