Beaver ecosystems

A beaver about to enter a river
Beavers help build our biodiversity

Annie Welden takes us to the wonderful world of beavers, the remarkable ecosystems engineers that work with humans to increase ecosystem biodiversity. Ever heard the phrase, ‘busy as a beaver?’

These large rodents found in North America and Eurasia are busy literally building biodiversity. By constructing their dams out of the materials around them, from logs to old shopping carts, they slow the flow of water, creating wetland habitat for other many other forms of life (Campbell-Palmer, 2016). Beavers and their dams make worlds for other species from aquatic plants to otters to, some may even say, humans.

With such benefits that cut across species boundaries, beavers and humans have begun to building animal-infrastructures, like dams, together in certain sites to foster biodiversity. Annie Welden, a graduate student and researcher at the University of Oxford, is examining these cases in Northern California and opportunities for more interspecies collaborations globally.

Welden’s work focuses on the relations between these ‘ecosystem engineers’ and the humans working with and around them: restoration ecologists, city planners, citizen scientists, etc. Exploring the biodiversity ‘work’ taking place, Welden is finding there are cases of collaboration between beavers and humans. There is potential to mobilise these ethical relations to encourage more working-with-nature and less human-nature conflict.

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