Beaver canals and their environmental effects

Authors: Bartosz Grudzinski*, Miami University, Hays Cummins, Miami University , Teng Keng Vang, Miami University
Topics: Geomorphology, Biogeography, Water Resources and Hydrology
Keywords: Beaver, canal, ecosystem engineer, keystone species, restoration
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 24
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Beaver canals and their environmental effects are much less studied than beaver dams, despite being widespread in some beaver-inhabited areas. In this study, we completed a systematic review of previous research on the structure and ecosystem effects of beaver canals to provide an increasingly holistic understanding of these landscape features. Specifically, we: 1) summarized why, where, when, and how beaver develop canals; 2) chronicled all published descriptions on beaver canal morphology; and 3) summarized the literature on the environmental effects of beaver canals. Thirty-one relevant studies were identified and incorporated into this review. Beaver canals have been identified in numerous environments ranging from largely undeveloped mountainous regions to heavily developed agricultural landscapes. Beaver primarily develop canals to increase accessibility to riparian resources, facilitate transport of harvested resources, and to decrease predation risk. As with beaver dams, beaver canals exhibit large structural variability, particularly in lengths, which can be over 0.5 km. Widths of about 1 m and depths of about 0.5 m are common. Beaver canals alter watershed hydrology by creating new aquatic habitats, connecting isolated aquatic features, and diverting water into colonized areas. Beaver canals have been identified as favored habitats for several biotic species and are sometimes used during critical life stages (e.g. dispersal). In addition to increasing overall floral and faunal species richness and diversity, beaver canals may benefit biota by mitigating habitat fragmentation and climate change impacts. Based on the results of this review, incorporating beaver canals into stream restoration practices may be environmentally beneficial.

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