Role in the Ecosystem
Beavers are central to all life, includes humans. They are critical to the success of healthy watersheds and species ranging from moose to songbirds, as well as the creation of natural firebreaks and overall healthy watersheds. Replenishing aquifers is crucial to Montana’s agriculture and communities.
- Beavers create riparian zones providing essential browse for elk, deer, moose and cattle.
- Beaver dams improve and protect downstream spawning area from sedimentation. They provide spawning, rearing and feeding areas for fish by providing deep cool ponds.
- In the ponds, silt is deposited which reduces soil erosion.
- Scientific findings are beaver dams are of fundamental importance to restoration and conservation efforts aimed at restoring dwindling native trout populations.
- Beaver dams slow the flow of water and decrease rapid run off from heavy rains and snow melt.
- Restored aquifers produce storage for millions of acre feet of water along the 60,000 miles of mountain creeks in Montana, and would increase the water supply imperative during droughts.
- Beavers can “deliver significant geomorphic modifications and result in changes to nutrient and sediment fluxes,” write the researchers, “limiting negative downstream impact” of agricultural pollution.
- Beavers are strict vegetarians and therefore are low in contaminants.
- Beavers are “master river engineers” and cost a fraction as much as conventional stream restoration projects.
- Beaver help waterfowl by creating increased areas of water, and in northerly latitudes they thaw areas of open water, allowing an earlier nesting season.
- Beaver dams decrease the risk and cost of major flooding.
- Beavers removing trees along streamsides widen riparian zones increasing bird abundance and diversity.
- 50% of North America’s threatened or endangered species rely on beaver created wetlands for their survival.
- Beavers are monogamous, mate for life, live in a family group, are territorial and self regulate producing one litter annually of 2 -4 and sending two year olds off on their own to claim their own territory.
- Beaver kitts are cared for by both parents and remain with the family for two years in order to learn the dam building skills crucial among their survival needs.
- Beaver are a source of food for many including coyotes, bears, bobcats, wolves, lynx, fox, hawks and mountain lions.
Vitally importantly, “Beavers are landscape miracle drugs. Need to enhance salmon runs? There’s a beaver for that. Want to recharge groundwater? Add a beaver. Hoping to adapt to climate change? Take two beavers and check back in a year.”1
Beaver ponds create wetlands which are among the most biologically productive ecosystems in the world 2 and provide habitats for plants, insects, amphibians, fish, waterfowl , song birds, and mammals.
A beaver’s services to landscape and wetland management are worth $120,000 a year 3.