By Lynnette Harris | January 13, 2021

Beaver Benefit Stream Management and Restoration

Beavers are ecosystem engineers, and important to many arid western ecosystems. Beavers are considered a keystone species, meaning they have an outsized effect on their environment even when their physical size and numbers are not large. However, they are not always welcomed or well understood.

USU graduate students Marshall Wolf and Karen Bartelt work with Associate Professor Phaedra Budy to better understand how the construction and eventual collapse of beaver dams influence the ecology of floodplains on Utah’s public land. In addition, Budy is involved in work examining how beaver fare after being relocated from an area in which they were considered a nuisance. Relocated beaver are tagged with transmitters so their activities and range can be tracked in their new habitat. Beaver can play important roles in stream restoration that aids plant and fish communities, but little has been documented about whether relocated animals are as effective as beaver that occur naturally in a restoration area.

Marshall Wolf
Beaver Aerial Diagram
beaver aerial

Through the summer of 2019, Bartelt and Wolf hade used drones to collect high-resolution aerial images of more than 75 beaver complexes. Data processing procedures are helping them evaluate the images and quantify the ecological and geological changes associated with those beaver complexes. What they learn will help natural resource managers better understand how beaver are influencing productivity, fish habitat quality, and floodplain connectivity of Utah’s rivers and streams.