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In the face of climate change, beavers are engineering a resistance


Beavers create messy wetlands as safe places to live, spreading out a stream into a network of channels, waterfalls and pools. A new study shows the positive side effects of that work, arguing that beavers could be a useful tool in reducing harm from flood, drought and wildfire – all made more frequent by climate change.

In the foothills of Boulder County, Colorado, there’s a kind of secret water park. It’s a sprawling network of pools, channels and waterfalls. Neck-deep ponds, rushing streams and cascades twice the height of a person are a stark contrast to the dry, brushy terrain on the canyon slopes above. But these features weren’t built by humans.

This marshy mosaic is a paradise for beavers, and one of hundreds of thousands just like it across the American West. The animals create messy wetlands as safe places to live, and a new paper explains how their handiwork is also a powerful tool in fending off the harms of climate change.

Emily Fairfax is one of the paper’s authors and an ecohydrologist at California State University Channel Islands. She has become one of the nation’s most prominent beaver experts, and has been studying the Boulder County site for […]

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