Beavers: A Potential Missing Link in California’s Water Future

The online publication Water Deeply has published a review of some of the potential benefits beavers can provide in the California landscape.

The industrious rodents can offer a range of benefits for California water supplies and habitats. But they’re still officially considered a pest

On California’s central coast, a region that usually receives drenching rainfall or fog for most of the year, some forests are now as arid as a desert. Streams that once ran at least at a trickle through summer have vanished in the ongoing drought, and environmentalists and fishermen fear that local salmon will disappear if climate conditions don’t improve.

The landscape desperately needs rain.

It could also use beavers, according to ecologists who say the near eradication of Castor canadensis from parts of the West in the 19th century has magnified the effects of California’s worst dry spell in history.

“Beavers create shock absorption against drought,” says Brock Dolman, a scientist in Sonoma County who wants to repopulate coastal California with the big lumberjacking rodents.

Beavers are a hated pest and a nuisance in the eyes of many landowners and developers, and the animals are regularly killed with depredation permits and by fur trappers. However, they are also a keystone species whose participation in the ecosystem creates benefits for almost all other flora and fauna, Dolman says. This is because of the way beavers’ hydro-engineering work affects the movement of water.

“Beavers aren’t actually creating more water, but they are altering how it flows, which creates benefits through the ecosystem,” says Michael Pollock, an ecosystems analyst and beaver specialist at the National Marine Fisheries Service Northwest Science Center .

Read the whole article at Water Deeply.

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