Conservation news

Audio: Beavers matter more than you think

We discuss one of the world’s most overlooked keystone species, the beaver, on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast.

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Most of us might not think of beavers as being a particularly remarkable animal, but these rodents are actually brilliant ecosystem-engineers whose value cannot be overstated. They help mitigate flooding, improve water quality, and capture more water for agriculture in the face of climate change. They also help provide habitat for species like salmon and can trap polluted sediments in rivers.

Environmental journalist and writer Ben Goldbarb is a big proponent of giving beavers far more attention than they’re paid. His latest book is fittingly called Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter.

“To me I think the remarkable thing about beavers is that, in a lot of ways, they’re the species that most resembles human beings,” Goldfarb says. “You know, we’re these incredibly meddlesome primates, right? We love building roads, and towns, and farms. We modify our environment to kind of suit our food and shelter needs, and beavers do the exact same thing. Beavers are building dams, creating these ponds and wetlands, basically increasing the extent of their own watery habitat and in so doing, in creating ponds and wetlands, they’re also creating habitat for countless other species, as well.”

There were once as many as 400 million beavers in North America, but by 1900 fur trapping had reduced their numbers to just 100,000. Today, the North American beaver population is on the rebound thanks to conservationists who are helping bring this keystone species back to habitat across the continent. Goldfarb tells us all about these efforts and just why beavers’ role as “ecosystem engineers” is so crucial.

Here’s this episode’s top news:

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Half-Tail Dale, a male beaver live-trapped by the Methow Beaver Project, awaits relocation into Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in the US state of Washington. Photo by Ben Goldfarb.

Follow Mike Gaworecki on Twitter: @mikeg2001

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