Altering hydrology an old-fashioned way

With large, semi-aquatic rodents, of course!

(via Wikipedia: Steve from washington, dc, usa – American Beaver CC BY-SA 2.0)

Via Gizmodo:

Rivers and streams that have been diverted by humans are designed to remove water quickly from the watershed, destroying local habitats for animals and making it more difficult for an ecosystem to recover from drought. Beavers build infrastructure which help to slow the flow of water, letting it recharge local aquifers, and preventing erosion which helps keep plants alive.

In the article Gizmodo references, one of the specific benefits beaver dams provide is pretty striking:

In several stream systems in the region, says Beesley, the only places where salmon — especially endangered Coho — have survived after four years of below-average rainfall are beaver ponds.

Another Gizmodo article covers how, apparently, beaver waterworks can also help clean the water of excess nitrogen from agricultural runoff:

Biologists at the University of Rhode Island were studying the nitrogen content of streams and noticed something odd: whenever there were beaver ponds upstream, nitrogen levels dropped. Beaver ponds slow down river water, and they mix it with organic matter, which must have an effect on river chemistry, but scientists didn’t know exactly what was happening in that murky water.

So they made soda-bottle-sized “ponds” that let them study variations on the conditions the beavers set up in their real-life ponds. And they found a kind of reverse nitrogen fixation process was occurring — call it “denitrification.” Bacteria in the dirt and the plant debris turned nitrates into nitrogen gas. The gas bubbled up to the surface and mixed with the atmosphere once more. In some cases, the level of nitrogen in the water dropped 45%.

Not covered in any of these articles was what method might be used to reintroduce beaver into areas where the animals have been driven out, but I suspect it won’t be via parachute, as was done in Idaho in the 1950s (do read the article at Boise State Public Radio, too, for a fuller story).


About Fjothr Lokakvan

More or less Northern Tradition polytheist.
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2 Responses to Altering hydrology an old-fashioned way

  1. Tom says:

    There is a documentary about how people have been reintroducing beavers that was produced by PBS as part of their Nature documentary series called Leave It to Beavers. It’s on Netflix if you want to watch it.

    It was very enjoyable and focused a lot on how beavers are good for water management and they basically cover how they can make areas that were otherwise desert into watery oases. One of the things they apparently do is make their ponds deeper over time so in times of drought, their ponds stay wet longer.

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