The activities of Beaver mold a landscape more than any other creature except man. Beavers perform unique and crucial roles within an ecosystem…functions that would be substantially different or nonexistent without them. Being a Keystone Species, many other species’ existence actually rely on the Beaver’s presence. Keystone species have far reaching, important benefits for biodiversity and our environment.
Beaver ponds create wetlands which are among the most biologically productive ecosystems in the world. Beaver eat wood, and by thinning the trees along the shore, algae and aquatic plants grow in the sun drenched wetland. By opening the tree canopy along the pond’s edge, a lush growth of grasses, sedges, bushes and saplings explode along this perimeter, providing food and cover for thriving, diverse communities of foraging birds, mammals, and insects…which in turn become a food source for even more animals. The Beaver themselves become part of the tropic level food chain, culminating in apex predation by bears, canids, birds of prey, and humans.
Tree-thinning by Beaver also allows more and brighter sunlight to reach the water, triggering an explosion of biological activity. Water quality is enhanced by the actions of microscopic creatures and algae as they absorb dissolved nutrients and eat organic wastes. The water becomes rich in nutrients. The organic material deposited by these activities support the emergence of specialized microscopic organisms actually able to detoxify and neutralize human-created wastes like heavy metals, pesticides, and fertilizers. The biologically-active, under-water Beaver meadow habitat acts like “The Landscape’s Kidneys”, slowing the snow-melt and rain water run-offs, allowing the capture and sequestering of substantial levels of carbon…eventually creating peat. (Peat covers 3% of Earth’s land, and stores 30% of our land-based carbon). Toxin flow is also slowed, settling upon the hungry biologics which eliminate the toxicity levels.
Functioning as natural sponges that store runoff water and slowly release it, their dams stabilize the water table, better maintain stream flows during droughts, reduce erosion, and mitigate damage from floods. Beaver ponds also recharge our drinking water aquifers; Beavers are even being reintroduced around the country to improve arid lands.