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Thursday, February 2, 2023

From a rodent turned climate hero: US plans to use beaver to fight drought and fires

In western North America, the search for solutions to the effects of the climate crisis is leading to an unlikely hero: the humble beaver, a rodent capable of shaping its environment to the point of slowing the path of large wildfires. As an example of nature’s protective role in an increasingly warming world, a growing movement of scientists and conservationists is drawing attention to and examining the benefits of recovering species destroyed by the fur trade.

So much so, that given the effects of climate change, the United States is beginning to seriously consider the possibility of compromising these animals. His role has even reached COP27, the climate summit in Egypt. There, the White House presented a roadmap to promote “nature-based solutions” that included conservation of beavers. The document highlights that the species “enhances groundwater recharge and flow during the dry season.” In California, the state government has dedicated $1.67 million this year to develop a beaver recovery program: what the state wildlife service calls “a creative and untapped climate hero.”

“We are rapidly running out of options to deal with climate change, and there are many people who are willing to study different solutions because we need all the help we can get,” said researcher Emily Fairfax from the University of California, Channel Islands. says, who defines himself as a “beaver dam enthusiast” on his twitter account,

“Work like a beaver” is an American saying that reflects the industrious personality of these animals, whose main function is to stop the flow of water: by piling up logs and silt up a river or stream, the beaver creates a pond where it Can build houses and be safe from predators.

But unlike man-made dams, these are porous, so they act like “bumps” that slow the water as it travels downstream. “If you let them do their job, they provide enormous benefits,” says Fairfax. Wetlands created by beavers have been shown to retain water and recharge aquifers, filter pollution, store carbon, and reduce flooding. They also form a mosaic of habitats, which enhance biodiversity by acting as shelter and breeding grounds for many species.

Because of their ability to model their environment second only to humans, they are known as “ecosystem engineers”. Fairfax himself worked as an engineer before beginning research on the species, and admired Beaver as a “highly accomplished environmental engineer”. For example, for its ability to resist the mega-fires that ravaged western North America.

After visiting burned areas before and after the fires and studying satellite images, Fairfax found that stretches of streams where there were no beavers were as affected by fire—in terms of effects on vegetation—than areas with beaver dams. On average three times higher than “They designed those scenarios in a way that creates really long-lasting protection,” he says.

These are benefits that can be multiplied if species are allowed to recover, even partially, what once belonged to them. It is estimated that 100 to 400 million otters inhabited North America before Europeans arrived, and trade in their rings became the engine of colonization. Fur shipments crossed the Atlantic to fuel the fashion for felt hats, as there were hardly any European otters left to hunt: in Spain, where the species is also part of the native fauna, it is believed that It disappeared in the 18th or 19th century. , although two decades ago it was reintroduced to some rivers of the Ebro basin and since 2020 it has been included in the list of threatened species.

According to Emily Fairfax, in North America, persecution was continuous, and today barely 10% of the original population survives. Nevertheless, the species is not protected, and many people, somewhat tolerant of their habit of nibbling trees and flooding land, consider them a pest. “They’re a little agent of chaos, and that can be stressful,” admits the researchers. Although there are non-lethal solutions, such as protecting the trees with metal mesh to keep them at bay, there are some who continue to resort to shotguns, nets or even dynamite. In 2021, the federal government itself, through the Department of Agriculture, shot a total of 24,687 otters.

From A Rodent Turned Climate Hero: Us Plans To Use Beaver To Fight Drought And Fires

There are also growing initiatives by NGOs, universities and native tribes to promote and help expand coexistence with beavers. One of them is Think Wild, an organization that runs a wildlife hospital in the Oregon desert. Its director, Sally Compton, says she is getting more and more calls from landowners asking them to send a pair of otters to their farm.

“This has been one of the worst drought years we’ve ever had, and it’s getting worse year after year. I think that’s why people are starting to think more creatively about how to keep water on their land,” Compton says.

Emily Fairfax agrees. “We have a big problem and we need all the help we can get. We can’t continue to work against them, we have to work with them.”

World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Deskhttps://worldnationnews.com/
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