Phenomena

Bringing Beavers Back

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It’s easy sometimes to forget just how drastically humans alter landscapes. Before European fur trappers came to North America, its waterways were ruled by beavers, one of nature’s most impressive engineers. Now researchers, ranchers, and conservationists are installing beaver dam analogs (BDAs) in streams and creeks to help bring back the beavers and their benefits.

Initially, the BDA starts as several human-driven posts with willow bark woven between. These structures help slow the water, which refills floodplains, deposits sediment, and can help recharge the water table. Beavers augment the structures and build new ones, helping bring complexity and fertility back to devastated waterways.

The benefits have been multifold. In waterways re-engineered through BDAs, native trout species have flourished, sage grouse nesting is recovering, water tables have climbed by a meter (thereby reducing irrigation costs), and seasonal streams have had their flow extended. It sounds like an exciting story, both for conservation and agriculture. Check out the full story here. (Video credit: Science; see also their full article)

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