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How Can Beavers Be Beneficial To The Ecosystem In Multiple Ways

by | Dec 22, 2022 | Environment

Beavers are considered one of the biggest rodents. These herbivores that prefer to eat aquatic plants, leaves, and roots for their sustenance, are regarded as keystone species in the ecosystem. Beavers are perceived as allogenic engineers because they can alter their surroundings. Thus, they contribute to defining the overall ecosystem. Because of the beaver’s specialized ecological niche, the ecosystem would have to shift without it. No other species could take the place of beavers if they completely vanished from the environment. How Can Beavers Be Beneficial to The Ecosystem in Multiple Ways

Source: North American Beaver

The beaver is a unique ecosystem engineer that can create a landscape that would otherwise not exist, thanks to the animal’s ability to build dams. As we experience more frequent heatwaves and drought, the potential role of beavers in safeguarding against these risks has captured widespread attention.

Benefits Of Beavers To The Ecosystem

1. Improve Water Quality

Beaver ponds function much like water filters such that they remove and retain contaminants and minerals. The dam built by a beaver colony significantly reduces the flow of water, enabling the growth of plants that detoxify the water. Consequently, the water leaving beaver ponds is cleaner than the water that enters them. They keep sediment as well. The sediment will ultimately transform the pond into a swampy field known as a beaver meadow if left in place for an extended period. During dry periods, they support the preservation of freshwater habitats and boost the quantity of water that is cleansed as it filters down into subterranean wells. According to studies, the existence of beavers in regions where cattle are reared can aid in the removal of wastes such as nitrogen, phosphates, and E. coli.

2. Evaporative Cooling

The cooling impact of evaporation allows water bodies to lower the temperature of the air around them. In contrast, this relaxing tendency quickly fades away as you get further away from the water unless they are particularly big or frequent. Consequently, it would be challenging to rely on beaver ponds to provide beneficial cooling effects for populated areas. Additionally, beavers often cut down trees when building dams, allowing the canopies of neighboring woods to become more open. This may result in less shade and increased exposure to the sun’s rays, complicating any possible cooling benefits.

3. Help Waterfowl Raise Their Young

A beaver’s dam increases the amount of surface water in a wetland, multiplying the number of usable nest sites on a given piece of land. Beaver lodges are also among the safest and most viable places for trumpeter swans, Canadian geese, and native ducks to raise their families. In Wyoming, one study concluded that the presence of beavers increases the number of water birds by 7500%!

4. Build Natural Nest Boxes For Birds and Mammals

As humans have eliminated most of America’s old-growth forests, animals that depend on hollow trees are facing serious problems. Beavers help to address that! When their dams “drown” waterside trees, these trees quickly attract woodpeckers, which, in turn, create cavities where swallows, owls, flying squirrels, wood ducks, and kestrels can safely raise their young.

5. Help Trout And Salmon

Ecologists believe that the historical over-trapping of beavers may be the cause of the dramatic population decreases of trout and salmon in the United States. There are beaver dams all around the mainland that provide secure nesting sites and winter shelters for steelhead trout, rainbow trout, brown trout, coho salmon, sockeye salmon, and many others. Beavers have been demonstrated to boost the fish populations in some regions significantly. This effect aids in providing food for bears, people, and numerous bird species.

6. Promote Tree Health And Diversity

Beavers and beaver ponds affect biodiversity by increasing habitat for numerous insect, bird, amphibian, mammal, and fish species, including coho and steelhead salmon. Many tree species regrow after being cut by beavers, and others depend on the rise, retreat, and flow of water from dams to spread and germinate their seeds. Beavers also increase the amount of surface water in a forest, which reduces the likelihood of catastrophic forest fires. Compared to ponds without beavers, beaver wetlands create a habitat for a significantly larger number of species. Beavers are known as ecosystem engineers because they create, significantly modify, and maintain habitats and ecosystems, and they consequently have a large impact on the biodiversity of an area. They bring wood into the water, which provides food and shelter for insects, and those insects become food for other species, including salmon. The insides of lodges beavers build provide homes for other animals, such as muskrats, mink, and even river otters. Some birds nest on top of their lodges. And fish take cover in the woody parts of the lodges that are in the water. The dams beavers build slow down water, and the combination of the water and wood provides different water temperatures and hiding places for many more species than a flowing stream or pond without beaver activity.    

Author

  • Sigma Earth

    The author has done a master's in Environmental science and is currently working as chief Environmental Advisor with New Delhi State Government.

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