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Wading Right InDiscovering the Nature of Wetlands$
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Catherine Owen Koning and Sharon M. Ashworth

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226554211

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226554495.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 27 September 2021

Pond-Meadow-Forest, Repeat: The Beaver’s Tale

Pond-Meadow-Forest, Repeat: The Beaver’s Tale

(p.61) Chapter 3 Pond-Meadow-Forest, Repeat: The Beaver’s Tale
Wading Right In

Catherine Owen Koning

Sharon M. Ashworth

Catherine Owen Koning

University of Chicago Press

Beavers have numerous adaptations to being active underwater, and their food consumption habits and dam-building activities change the landscape for decades. Beaver dams create ponds with deep water habitat for insects, fish, amphibians, waterfowl, and other species. Woody plants usually die in the standing water created by beaver dams, resulting in standing dead trees which are important habitat for birds and bats. Beavers abandon their dam when their food supply is depleted, allowing a wet meadow to establish, then a wet forest, until the beavers return and the cycle repeats. Scientists discovered that beavers employ territorial scent-marking which assists in kin recognition. The absence of beavers due to overhunting in the 1700’s resulted in fewer wetlands and ponds and a decrease in wildlife. Reintroduction of beavers in the 1900’s has increased the extent and diversity of wetlands and open water habitat. In dry landscapes, beaver ponds and leaky dams capture spring runoff and hold water in the stream for the entire season. Beaver dams can reduce flooding and downstream erosion during large storms, allowing the stream to modulate the effects of climate extremes. Although beavers are a keystone species, the flooded areas they create can create a nuisance for landowners.

Keywords:   beaver, dam-building, flooding, ponds, wildlife habitat, landscape diversity, keystone species, ecosystem engineer, climate resilience

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