California Drought: Bring back BEAVER, nature’s hydrologist

The first principle of permaculture is to observe the way nature works. To quote the Sufi master Hazrat Inayat Kahn : There is One Holy Book, the sacred manuscript of nature, the only scripture which can enlighten the reader. 

If we are fortunate enough to stumble across a somewhat pristine stream still inhabited by beavers, we can’t help but notice not just their ponds and dams, but maybe even see how their constructions collect and spread water into the surrounding land, catching and holding nature’s most precious element to nourish and fertilize plants, animals, insects, even humans — until, of course, we kill the beavers — for their pelts, or to eliminate those messy, inconvenient waterways, or just for the hell of it.

The Plan to Make California Wet by Spreading Beavers Up and Down the State

October 17, 2015

by Alissa Walker

gizmodo, via Keith


Beaver shot by Daniel Rose

Ending the drought in the West will require rain—not too much rain—and smarter ways to collect and store that water. But something else that can keep things moist? Believe it or not: Beavers.

According to a story in Water Deeply, a group of ecologists have a plan to help repopulate the Central Coast of California with Castor canadensis, the large beavers which once roamed the state in great numbers. (Not to be confused with their ancestors, giant beavers that were seven feet long.) The idea is that beavers are nature’s hydrologists, engineering the way that water travels through the landscape:

“Beavers aren’t actually creating more water, but they are altering how it flows, which creates benefits through the ecosystem,” says Michael Pollock, an ecosystems analyst and beaver specialist at the National Marine Fisheries Service Northwest Science Center.

Beavers were nearly eradicated by humans because they were interfering with our logging and fishing industries. But that’s exactly why beavers need to return. Rivers and streams that have been diverted by humans are designed to remove water quickly from the watershed, destroying local habitats for animalsand making it more difficult for an ecosystem to recover from drought. Beavers build infrastructure which help to slow the flow of water, letting it recharge local aquifers, and preventing erosion which helps keep plants alive.

Not everyone is a fan of the Bring Back the Beaver campaign. Ecologists can’t agree where beavers originally lived, for one, so they aren’t sure where they should be reintroduced. And they don’t want to end up with an invasive species, which is what happened in South America. But some scientists aren’t waiting around for a consensus. The Yurok Tribal Fisheries Program is taking matters into its own hands, hiring humans to build their own beaver-like structures to mimic the rodents’ beneficial environmental impact. You can join a Facebook campaign for the plan here. It sounds like a dam good idea.

[Water Deeply]

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