A new study finds evidence that relocated beaver can be effective tools for stream restoration. In one watershed in Washington State, beaver increased water storage and reduced water temperature during a particularly hot summer.
Relocated Beaver Can Increase Water Storage and Decrease Temperatures in Headwater Streams
Many areas are experiencing increasing stream temperatures, reduced summer flow, and decreased water availability due to climate change. Because dam building and pond formation by beaver can increase water storage and lower stream temperatures, beaver relocations have been proposed as a potential climate adaption tool. Researchers from the University of Washington, USGS, and Tulalip Tribes measured changes in stream temperature and water storage following the relocation of 69 beaver in the Skykomish River watershed in Washington State. Successful relocations resulted in increases in surface water and groundwater storage within one year, and an average decrease of 2.3°C during a particularly hot summer. These findings demonstrate that in some watersheds, dam building by beavers could help maintain a more stable supply of cool water, on which cold-water fishes like salmon and trout depend. Prior beaver restoration studies have observed variable impacts on water temperature and the authors caution that regionally specific factors can influence how beavers affect water storage and stream temperature.
Dittbrenner, B.J., Schilling, J.W., Torgersen, C.E., and Lawler, J.J., 2022, Relocated beaver can increase water storage and decrease stream temperature in headwater streams: Ecosphere, v. 13, no. 7, e4168. https://doi.org/10.1002/ecs2.4168