Vital Wetlands

Beaver damming is the major way to restore freshwater wetlands naturally. Such wetlands are wonderful oases of life in an increasingly developed world. The quiet waters behind dams act as nurseries for fish and many other creatures, including beautiful wood ducks. Wetlands created by dams provide hidden, yet essential services for people too.

Play Benefit Rare SpeciesBefore beavers were extirpated world-wide, hundreds of dams in the headwaters of major rivers moderated their flows. Instead of water running downstream in hours, a typical leaky beaver dam may slow this to days or weeks. Keeping water on the land longer, means that more of this important resource is available for animals and humans. Taxpayers need not pay for increasingly large culverts and bridges downstream to accommodate the flow when many beaver impoundments upstream are regulating the flow. Dams, which cause small, localized flooding, play an important role in controlling regional floods when they are numerous in the headwaters of a watershed. As the quantity and quality of water suppiies becomes more critical, both within countries and internationally, recognition of the beaver's key role is growing.

 A series of dams along streams once provided convenient transportation routes for many species, prior to the widespread extirpation of beavers. A report from Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee found that 81% of rare (threatened and endangered) species were associated with econiches (ponds, bogs, beaver meadows etc.) produced by beaver dam building. Yet, more than a third of freshwater fish and amphibians in the U.S. are extinct or at risk, and in North America we are losing freshwater species at rate that's comparable to species loss in rainforests.

 The "edge" area between wetlands and forests, or other ecosystems, is especially rich in species of animals and plants. Spectacular wildflowers, such as the brilliant Cardinal flower (to the left) thrive in riparian areas bordering beaver ponds, or right on top of beaver dams. Boggy wetlands may have intriguing plants, such as the insect-eating pitcher plants and sundews. Beaver wetlands are among the best ecosystems for providing both biodiversity and essential habitats for rare species. As we lose species, we also lose possible sources of food and medicine as well as spiritual and aesthetic values. Learning to coexist with beavers would help correct the serious problem of rising extinction.

Here's more about beaver wetlands and wetlands in general.