Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


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

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,

Melinda Daniels | Newswise Science News
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

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: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>