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Beavers are Dam Cool

By: Kai Wang

When beavers build dams, they help with climate change by lowering water temperatures. When a beaver moves into a stream, it first builds a dam to make a safe habitat for itself. Beavers begin with logs or stones to secure the structure. After that, they will keep piling sticks, stones, and mud repeatedly. They do this until water starts to pool behind them. As flowing water pushes against the dam, it begins to carve out a deep pool. This is good for the beaver because they are awkward on land but excel in the water. This is also ideal for other species because deeper water tends to be much cooler than water at the surface.

If you are a fish, for example, on a hot day, you can just move to the bottom of the deep pool to stay cool. As water hits the dam, it is forced into the soil, and it mixes with cold ground water before resurfacing. As a result, a recent study in western Washington showed water temperatures downstream of beaver ponds were 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit colder than upstream. Beavers will also dig out canals into the surrounding land, which functions as a miniature highway system for them. This spreads the water around the area. As the water evaporates, the water vapor chills the air.

As the climate crisis worsens, we can expect droughts and wildfires to increase. Beavers might be able to help. The wetland ecosystems they build are especially important in areas that are prone to fire or drought. Dams slow water down and allow it to seep deep into the Earth. Which provides us with a source of groundwater. It also keeps the surrounding land wet, and wetter land is less likely to burn. Beaver wetland ecosystems provide a safe place for animals to go when wildfires break out.

Nevertheless, beavers have often considered pests because wetland creation is messy. When a dam is built in the wrong location it can flood roads or homes. The previous solution was extermination. But this is changing. California passed a bill that requires state-sponsored beaver relocation. It seems that we have to let go of a little bit of control and let them build.

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