Beavers could help in adapting to climate change
Their ponds can provide flood control and natural fire breaks.
(Photo credit: NPS / Kent Miller)
Beavers often get a bad rap for cutting down trees and building unwanted ponds on private property.
But Jen Vanderhoof of Washington State’s King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks wants to help redeem this hard-working rodent’s reputation.
“We’re very obviously concerned about climate change, and I feel like beavers could help us,” she says.
In the Northwest, warming temperatures and earlier snowmelt could cause water shortages in the summer. But Vanderhoof says that after beavers build a dam, “not only do you have more water being stored on the surface, but it’s also filtering down into the groundwater, and so you’re storing more water both above and below the surface that way.”
Beaver ponds can also help slow water down as it flows through a watershed. That can help prevent erosion and reduce flooding after heavy precipitation.
Vanderhoof says the wet landscapes that beavers create can even help control wildfires.
“They are basically creating natural fire breaks,” she says.
So she helps people find ways to manage beavers on their properties without killing or trapping them. And she says in some areas, introducing beavers can provide important climate benefits.
“They’ve got it all figured out,” she says, “if we can just figure out how to work with them a little bit better.”