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Dammed water quality — Longitudinal stream responses below beaver ponds in the Umpqua River Basin, Oregon

June 13, 2022

Beaver-related restoration (BRR) has gained popularity as a means of improving stream ecosystems, but the effects are not fully understood. Studies of dissolved oxygen (DO) and water temperature, key water quality metrics for salmonids, have demonstrated improved conditions in some cases, but warming and decreased DO have been more commonly reported in meta-analyses. These results point to the contingencies that can influence outcomes from BRR. We examined water quality related to beaver ponds in a diverse coastal watershed (Umpqua River Basin, OR, USA). We monitored water temperature 0–400 m above and below beaver ponds and at pond surfaces and bottoms across seven study sites from June through September of 2019. DO was also recorded at two sites at pond surfaces and pond bottoms. Downstream monthly mean daily maximum temperatures were warmer than upstream reference locations by up to 1.9°C at beaver dam outlets but this heating signal attenuated with downstream distance. Downstream warming was greatest in June and July and best predicted by pond bottom temperatures. DO at pond surfaces and bottoms were hypoxic (≤5 mg/L) for more than half of the 32-day monitoring period. Water temperatures increased for short distances below monitored beaver ponds and observed oxygen conditions within ponds were largely unsuitable for salmonid fishes. These findings contrast with some commonly stated expectations of BRR, and we recommend that managers consider these expectations prior to implementation. In some cases, project goals may override water quality concerns but in streams where temperature or DO restoration are objectives, managers may consider using BRR techniques with caution.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2022
Title Dammed water quality — Longitudinal stream responses below beaver ponds in the Umpqua River Basin, Oregon
DOI 10.1002/eco.2430
Authors John R. Stevenson, Jason B. Dunham, Steve M. Wondzell, Jimmy D. Taylor
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecohydrology
Index ID 70232198
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center