February 2015 

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The Many Hats of Beaver: Ecosystem Engineer, Geologic Agent and Restoration Practitioner

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Resource details

Resource ID

453

Access

Open

Contributed by

Admin User

Volume

47

Named person(s)

Joseph M. Wheaton

Date

09 February 15

Number

2

Abstract

North American beaver (Castor canadensis) were once trapped to near extinction for their pelts,
which made fashionable top hats. Fortunately, for
beaver and us, though extirpated in many areas
top hats went out of fashion. Beaver populations
are now recovering and we increasingly recognize
their value as ecosystem engineers. Specifically,
their dam building activities cause a cascade of
hydrologic, geomorphic and ecological feedbacks
that in-turn are critical to creating and sustaining
complex, healthy habitat in rivers, streams and
wetlands for a diverse range of flora and fauna.
This recognition has elevated their status to a
restoration practitioner in many parts of the
country, including here in Utah, where beaver are
actively used to help restore streams. From a
geologic perspective, beaver excavate modest
amounts of sediment to pack into their dams, but
their dams and associated wetlands, floodplains

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