Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The Ecosystem Engineer: Research Looks at Beavers' Role in River Restoration

05.01.2011
When engineers restore rivers, one Kansas State University professor hopes they'll keep a smaller engineer in mind: the North American beaver.

Beavers are often called ecosystem engineers because they can radically alter stream or valley bottom ecosystems, said Melinda Daniels, an associate professor of geography who recently studied the connection between beavers and river restoration. Beaver dams create diverse river landscapes, she said, and can turn a single-thread channel stream into a meadow, pond or multichannel, free-flowing stream.

"Our argument is that the restoration target for streams with forested riparian zones has got to acknowledge the diversity brought to river systems by active beaver populations," Daniels said.

Daniels and three researchers from the University of Connecticut co-authored "The River Discontinuum: Applying Beaver Modifications to Baseline Conditions for Restoration of Forested Headwaters." The article, led by Denise Burchsted at the University of Connecticut, appears in a recent issue of BioScience, the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences.

While the research involves observations of several watersheds in northeastern Connecticut, the results are applicable to any forested stream, which typically have large beaver populations. Beaver populations have rebounded in recent years, Daniels said, after coming close to extinction in the early 19th century by hunters for their fur.

The ultimate goal of the research, Daniels said, is to help restore rivers in an efficient way that acknowledges ecosystem diversity and doesn't destroy it.

"A lot of rivers are in trouble and need work and restoration, but it's amazing how little we know about the systems we're trying to fix," she said. "We know they're broken, but we don't exactly know what they should look like because we know so little about how many of our river systems function."

Current restoration projects often don't consider the role of beavers as ecosystem engineers, and instead focus on creating continuous free-flowing streams, Daniels said. Such restoration can be expensive because it usually involves completely tearing down small 19th-century milldams and re-engineering an entire valley bottom.

Rather than tear down the whole milldam and radically change the surrounding ecosystem, the researchers recommend river restorers only remove part of it. This allows some ponded water to remain and mimics the role of beavers. Daniels said that in many cases if an old dam breaks and forms a gap, beavers may build their own dam to patch the gap and recreate the ecosystem that previously existed.

The researchers plan to continue river observations and collect more data to provide river restorers with insight for maintaining river ecosystem diversity.

"You can use these natural analogs to produce an ecosystem that looks a lot more like the one that was there before the colonists arrived," Daniels said. "We can restore rivers in a way that mimics the naturally diverse beaver streams, and we can save a lot of money in the process."

Melinda Daniels, 785-532-0765, mddaniel@k-state.edu

Melinda Daniels | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.k-state.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Preservation of floodplains is flood protection
27.09.2017 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

Im Focus: New nanomaterial can extract hydrogen fuel from seawater

Hybrid material converts more sunlight and can weather seawater's harsh conditions

It's possible to produce hydrogen to power fuel cells by extracting the gas from seawater, but the electricity required to do it makes the process costly. UCF...

Im Focus: Small collisions make big impact on Mercury's thin atmosphere

Mercury, our smallest planetary neighbor, has very little to call an atmosphere, but it does have a strange weather pattern: morning micro-meteor showers.

Recent modeling along with previously published results from NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft -- short for Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

Conference Week RRR2017 on Renewable Resources from Wet and Rewetted Peatlands

28.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A single photon reveals quantum entanglement of 16 million atoms

16.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

The melting ice makes the sea around Greenland less saline

16.10.2017 | Earth Sciences

On the generation of solar spicules and Alfvenic waves

16.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>