Thinking Like Beavers Could Help Combat Drought
Thought to be a nuisance by some landowners, researchers are finding the dams that beavers build on creeks and rivers actually help restore them.
Researchers describe the process as "soaking the sponge," as these structures increase water levels both above and belowground.
Damon Keen, a fisheries biologist with Idaho Department of Fish and Game, says so-called beaver mimicry structures have increased in popularity in eastern Idaho in the last decade as a way to restore fish habitat.
The structures also help lower water temperatures and allow streams to flow longer without drying out.
Beavers were almost wiped out of the Northwest a century ago, but have made a comeback.
In some cases, Idaho Fish and Game takes beavers from spots where they’re causing headaches for landowners and moves them to habitats in need of rehabilitation.
"Anything that we can do to address drought or make people and nature more resilient to drought is going to be a good strategy, and this is one of our best strategies for dealing with the climate change effects," he states.
Rebekah Levine, professor of environmental sciences at the University of Montana Western, also sees a lot of promise in mimicking beaver structures.
She says people are moving toward a future where every drop of water will be more valuable.
"In a world where we’re going to be up against water resources limitations, we really need to be creative and try multiple different possible solutions,” she stresses.