EP10 Working Beavers

Canada’s iconic animal–the beaver–and agricultural producers are not always the best of friends. But they have more in common than you’d think. Beavers are ‘water farmers’ and ‘ecosystem system engineers’ much in the same way producers practicing good land management are stewards of the land. So what happens if these two sides join forces in water management on agricultural land?

Wetland ecologist Doctor Glynnis Hood of the University of Alberta goes over the benefits of having beavers on agricultural land and explains how to reduce beaver-farmer conflicts. And as an added bonus, you can listen to the story of Geronimo the skydiving beavers in this episode!

Highlights:

(5:45) Even during the worst drought on record in 2002, beavers were keeping water on the landscape by digging channels to conserve water. Meanwhile, ponds that were not inhabited by beavers were drying up and the grazing land surrounding these ponds was dwindling. Because beavers were able to keep water on the landscape, vegetation surrounding these ponds remained stable for grazing.

(13:17) Beaver ponds tend to be deeper and have more convoluted shorelines, which increases the biodiversity of an ecosystem. Beaver ponds also increases landscape connectivity, which allows animals to move across landscapes with ease throughout each season.

(21:54) Pond levelers work to manage the amount of flooding and damage that can be caused by beavers to agricultural land. Pond levelers can manage flooding and contain the damage for substantially less financial investment that traditional beaver maintenance methods utilized by farmers, such as bulldozers, backhoes, and dynamite.

(27:10) The cost benefit analysis of pond levelers was determined to be extremely cost effective in comparison to traditional management methods such as bulldozers, backhoes, and dynamite. Pond levelers were shown to be more effective than traditional methods at controlling floods and damage and required very little maintenance to maintain proper function.

Useful Links:

2002 Drought in the Prairies:
https://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/prairie-drought-worst-weather-story-of-2002-1.313693

Report on Geronimo and Idaho’s other beavers who were air dropped:
https://martinezbeavers.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/airdrop-STUDY-beaver.pdf

Alberta Wetland Mitigation Directive, December 2018:
https://open.alberta.ca/dataset/2e6ebc5f-3172-4920-9cd5-0c472a22f0e8/resource/62b9a6ce-1d5a-4bc8-832e-c818e3e65410/download/alberta-wetland-mitigation-directive-201812.pdf

Want to learn more? Listen to Ecosystem Services with Christine Campbell of ALUS Canada.

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