The beaver protects ecosystems from global warming

Ecological researchers are interested in the beaver. This species, considered harmful – or hunted for its fur – is becoming essential in the fight against the effects of global warming.


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The beaver (a protected species in France) is a frenzied builder, it builds a dam in a week.  Scotland, England, Germany and California are officially banking on it to fight global warming.  (STAN TEKIELA AUTHOR / NATURALIST / MOMENT RF / GETTY IMAGES)

Superbeaver! Several recent works show the enormous contribution of the beaver as an ally in the fight against droughts, floods, and to boost biodiversity. Mathilde Fontez, editor-in-chief of the scientific magazine Epsiloon tells us today about this rodent which builds dams on rivers.

franceinfo: Are climatologists and biodiversity specialists interested in beavers?

Mathilde Fontez: Yes, even if we haven’t necessarily seen them at work, we all know these dams that the beaver builds, to submerge the entrance to its lodge, and protect itself against predators. This animal weighing around twenty kilos is a frenzied builder, it builds a dam in a week. And it is the impact of these dams on ecosystems that researchers are discovering.

To the point that some consider the beaver to be the most influential species in our environment: the only one capable of profoundly transforming a landscape, to make it more resistant to drought, floods, etc.

In France, is it a protected species?

Yes, and for a long time: 1909, it was the first mammal to be protected. There are 25,000 beavers in France currently – it is forbidden to destroy their dam, you risk a fine of 150,000 euros.

But overall, the animal came close to extinction in the 20th century, it was hunted for its skin, for its meat. And it took us a while to realize its importance for ecosystems. Then QWhat do the studies say today? First, that the beaver protects biodiversity: the water networks they create encourage the presence of aquatic organisms, butterflies, insects, birds. It has been measured locally that they triple the diversity of amphibians, for example.

Studies also show that beavers soften heatwaves. They create pockets of cold water, they cool the atmosphere by evaporation. American researchers noted a local cooling of 2.3°C in water during the summer. They prevent flooding by slowing the flow of water. They block fires by soaking the surrounding soil and plants: a study in the United States showed that areas with beavers suffer three times less loss of vegetation during major fires.

Are they creating some kind of local wetland?

It’s exactly that. They even have an impact on water filtration: their constructions accumulate sediments and retain pollutants. The water that comes out of their dams contains five times less phosphates, and 70% less nitrates – the pollutants of intensive agriculture.

So, it’s not always easy to live with beavers: you have to protect the tree and fruit crops around them. But we are starting to call them for help. Scotland, England, Germany and California are officially betting on him. Everyone is succumbing to the power of superbeaver…

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