Beavers build dams that change the way water moves between streams, lakes, and the land. In Alaska, beavers are moving north from the forests into the Arctic tundra. When beavers build dams in the Arctic, they cause frozen soil, called permafrost, to thaw. Scientists are studying how beavers and the thawing of permafrost are impacting streams and rivers in Alaska’s national parks. For example, permafrost thaw from beavers can add harmful substances like mercury to streams. Mercury can be taken up by stream food webs, including fish, which then become unhealthy to eat. Permafrost thaw can also move carbon (from dead plants) to beaver ponds. When this carbon decomposes, it can be released from beaver ponds into the air as greenhouse gases, which cause Earth’s climate to warm. Scientists are trying to keep up with these busy beavers to better understand how they are changing Arctic landscapes and Earth’s climate.
|Title||How beavers are changing Arctic landscapes and Earth’s climate|
|Authors||Jonathan A. O'Donnell, Michael P. Carey, Brett Poulin, Ken Tape, Joshua C. Koch|
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Series Title||Frontiers for Young Minds|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Alaska Science Center Water|