Navigation Links
Beaver dams create healthy downstream ecosystems

Beavers, long known for their beneficial effects on the environment near their dams, are also critical to maintaining healthy ecosystems downstream. Researchers have found that ponds created by beaver dams raised downstream groundwater levels in the Colorado River valley, keeping soil water levels high and providing moisture to plants in the otherwise dry valley bottom. The results will be published 8 June in Water Resources Research, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

Cherie Westbrook of Colorado State University and colleagues there and at the U.S. Geological Survey in Fort Collins, Colorado, conducted a three-year study in Rocky Mountain National Park, examining valley ecosystems downstream in the Colorado River. They noted that water diverted by beaver dams is forced out of the natural stream channel and spreads across and down the valley for hundreds of meters [yards]. In addition, dams built on the river changed the direction of groundwater flow in the valley. The changes caused water to infiltrate the river banks and flow underground toward the sides of the valley, instead of down the center of the valley.

The researchers suggest that the elevated moisture levels found in soil surrounding the dams would otherwise require water from a very large natural flood, which they estimate as the 200-year flood, to achieve the same expansive water availability to the valley bottom. Additionally, beaver dams built away from natural river channels further redirect water across the valley, enhancing the depth, extent, and duration of inundation associated with smaller floods; they also elevate the water table to sustain plant and animal life during the dry summer season.

"This study broadens the view of the importance of beaver in the valley bottoms beyond the upstream ponds," Westbrook said. "We found that upstream ponds were not the main hydrologic effect of the dams in the Colorado River valley. Instead, the beaver dams greatly enhanced hydrologic processes during the peak flow and low flow periods, suggesting that beaver can create and maintain environments suitable for the formation and persistence of wetlands."

The study comes as the beaver population in Rocky Mountain National Park is dwindling. Approximately 30 of the animals currently live there, down from a high of nearly 600 estimated in 1940. The authors caution that additional reductions in the population could harm the current hydrologic balance in the river valley and affect the area's water cycle and soil conditions, potentially changing plant species and influencing the overall diversity of the ecosystem in the future. They suggest that although there are multiple explanations for the reduction in beaver population, such as alterations in the flow along the Colorado River, similar hydrologic effects downstream likely affect river systems worldwide.


Source:American Geophysical Union

Related biology news :

1. Chemists create Superbowl molecule; May lead to better health
2. Deficiency of growth hormone and IGF-1 reduces cancer and kidney disease, but creates other problems
3. RNA project to create language for scientists worldwide
4. Researcher gets NSF grant to create mutant maize lines
5. Breakthrough: Scientists create worlds tiniest organic particles
6. NIH creates nationwide network of molecular libraries screening centers
7. Researchers create infectious hepatitis C virus in a test tube
8. Ants, not evil spirits, create devils gardens in the Amazon rainforest, study finds
9. Researchers create functioning artificial proteins using natures rules
10. Scientists create digital bacteria to forge advances in biomedical research
11. Student scientists create living bacterial photographs
Post Your Comments:

(Date:11/20/2015)... 20, 2015 NXTD ) ("NXT-ID" ... the growing mobile commerce market and creator of the ... , was recently interviewed on The RedChip Money ... this weekend on Bloomberg Europe , Bloomberg Asia, ... --> NXTD ) ("NXT-ID" or the "Company"), a ...
(Date:11/17/2015)... , November 17, 2015 Paris ...   --> Paris from 17 th ... DERMALOG, the biometrics innovation leader, has invented the first combined ... on the same scanning surface. Until now two different scanners ... one scanner can capture both on the same surface. ...
(Date:11/12/2015)... , Nov. 12, 2015  A golden retriever that ... muscular dystrophy (DMD) has provided a new lead for ... Hospital, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and ... . Cell, pinpoints a ... "escape" the disease,s effects. The Boston Children,s lab of ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... , Nov. 25, 2015  Neurocrine Biosciences, Inc. ... Gorman , President and CEO of Neurocrine Biosciences, will ... Conference in New York . ... visit the website approximately 5 minutes prior to the ... replay of the presentation will be available on the ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... ... 2015 , ... A long-standing partnership between the Academy of ... formalized with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding. , AMA Executive Director ... Minter and Capt. Albert Glenn Tuesday, November 24, 2015, at AMA Headquarters in ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... 25, 2015 The Global ... a professional and in-depth study on the current ... (Logo: ) , The ... including definitions, classifications, applications and industry chain structure. ... international markets including development trends, competitive landscape analysis, ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... LUMPUR, Malaysia , Nov. 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... global contract research organisation (CRO) market. The trend ... result in lower margins but higher volume share ... increased capacity and scale, however, margins in the ... Research Organisation (CRO) Market ( ), ...
Breaking Biology Technology: