Yes! That's exactly what I'm suggesting. Beavers are indeed a keystone species... I might say that they are THE keystone species, if we have any hope of turning this situation around. This is going to take government incentives, and a total rethinking of what's been going on in the region in question. Ranches might be required by law, for instance, to have a certain amount of water catchment on their land (ponds, swales, etc) or allow beavers on the land. The government's Ministry of Forests, or whatever the new name is for it now, has to come to terms with the disaster that it has had a hand in creating (By not creating proper marketing for and incentives for harvesting pine, and placing more value and focus on fir, spruce, and cedar, they allowed the pine forests to become too old and thus more susceptible to the beetles, and thus had a large roll to play in the epidemic blossoming so large so fast). Now there is so much dead pine, the loggers could not possibly harvest enough of it before it burns in a forest fire or falls and rots. The former is unfortunately more likely. What I would be suggesting in the rethink is to go into these massive fire zones, and plant the creeks with poplars, willows, birches, cottonwoods, and other deciduous trees, all of which beaver like to eat and build with. There are thousands of unemployed people on welfare or Employment Insurance who could be paid to plant these easy to plant and grow trees under the tutelage of professional silvicultural workers. In less than a decade, beaver could be introduced en masse to the area, and they could be introduced to any areas where these trees are already abundant. Beaver multiply pretty fast, and so this situation could get pretty wet in a hurry. After the beaver systems are firmly established, the poplar dominated forest systems around them can be planted with wetter species than would have grown there in 2017. As these Islands of wetter forest are established, they will slowly spread their moisture throughout the landscape through transpiration induced rain and natural seed dispersal via birds and rodents. We had the wettest year in quite a while last year with the Super El Nino, and if this system had already been in place for a decade, there would have been such a massive volume of water retained in the landscape that there is no way that this forest fire season would have gotten anywhere near this bad.
From your post, you seem to be suggesting that beavers are a keystone species that is instrumental in geoengineering the landscape for enhanced water harvesting. I heartily agree. It would seem that giving ranchers and foresters an incentive to work beavers back into land use and management policies is key. If ranchers can be convinced that less water retention capacity means less grazing, it could be an avenue to bring them back.
As to forestry, I think that will be a little harder to manage.
For certain. The foresters want to have forests forever, but they are not going about it with any kind of thoughts to creating that. So much prime timber of fir, spruce, and cedar, has burnt with all that pine that the loss to their economy is almost impossible to calculate. The thing is, the program that I envision would allow way more choice species in the future than are currently growing in the region now, as it is presently dominated by pine. The biggest problem is that the government and the loggers do not think in future terms, they think in short term plans at best, dealing with 4 year provincial political cycles which are all about being popular with certain policy decisions.
ranchers and foresters need to be shown that beavers, far from being the nuisance species that they have been made out to be, are key to lowering fire risk, mitigating flood damage, and improving hydrology for pasture and forest growth. The motivation isn't as "pure" as some would like it to be, but it is the most permacultural answer to the issue
What a breath of fresh air that would be (quite literally as it has been an incredibly smoky summer here... thank God there were no big fires here, and here's hoping that I get my ponds and swales in place before any happen). Responsible forestry is almost mythological it is so far from the present reality. A friend of mine went to an area to check out some logging blocks that were being offered to him as part of the local community forest, when he got out to them in the spring, he found that more than 40% had already been logged. No accounting for it, at all. Not just your average cut and run forestry that was done by the 'legal' books, but outright piracy. That's the level of nightmare that is out here, and what we are potentially dealing with. The ideas that I am presenting on not only not on the drawing board, they aren't any where near the room the drawing board is in. These folks are not only not on the same page, they are in a completely different book. I'm not talking about every logger, or every logging company, but the same is the case for most of the ranchers. They are schooled in a different train of thought, and this is going to be a hard sell. It's going to take a massive effort to get the information in the right hands. Currently, politically, the government is almost the best it's ever been for such an initiative to get rolling, as the Greens have the balance of power with an NDP minority government barely holding power over the Liberals.
an effective recipe for policy success in these types of discussions has to do with linking an industry's prosperity to their stewardship of the land they use.
While the practices are much better, and this should be noted and celebrated, there is much that they could do in order to enhance stream quality and erosion control. I think that this could be enhanced greatly, if forest was managed (logged) with direct consideration towards fire guards rather than grabbing the highest priced wood. This would particularly have significant impact to our ends if fire guards were planted with a majority of deciduous species which not only drop firestorms to the ground, but often re-sprout from the roots after fires. The focusing of planting conifers and ignoring the nursery effect of having a canopy of deciduous trees in which many high value conifers naturally regenerate is one of the many major failings in forestry planning. There has never been a plan of succession in forestry, where one species is planted or encouraged to grow in the understory of it's nursery species, and as such forests are stuck in a false stasis, one that has become a degenerative system in many ways. Also, as Marco eloquently put it, in regards to beaver
Modern forestry practices are much better — erosion and stream quality protections are mandatory and agencies are starting to embrace a philosophy of low-intensity, high-frequency burns.
Everywhere they have managed to survive or have been reintroduced, the pond and wetlands they build have radically transformed the landscape. Their dams hold water in the system, create all sorts of amazing new habitat for thousands of other species, recharge aquifers, and rehabilitate streams that have been excised by fast moving water to the point of severe erosion.
I think this government money would be far better spent on fire reduction programs including what I mentioned in this post and others in this thread.
Canada needs to take money out of disaster. I would like to see zero federal relief money for things like this.... By giving away money, the government facilitates further waste.
For sure, forests take a long time to mature, but deciduous forests do not take long before they can supply beavers, and beavers do not take long before they have increased the water retention in the landscape dramatically, which would be a more appropriate time to go in and replant towards the new hydrology of the landscape.
Forests take a long time to mature, it's going to be a slow process.
The entire forest system is built around the idea of capital exploitation, not resource management, not sustainability, and certainly not ecosystem succession and encouraging natural regeneration systems. The result is erosion of not only the landscape, and ecosystems, but also of their own economic base. It's a suicidal practice, but so are all exploitive models... BUT, there's the short term profits! <-And that's what it's all about. We have to remove those incentives, while giving incentives to practices that encourage diversity, regeneration, succession, riparian/water system improvements, and ground level biomass accumulation.
those who managed their forest poorly are being rewarded handsomely.
Generally hardwoods or deciduous species are seen as competition in B.C., and herbicides are used in some cases and in others manual brushing with saws, be they chain saws for larger material or circular bladed brush saws for smaller stuff. Sometimes the stuff is hacked with a golf club sized cutter. Sometimes a girdling tool is used. I think that none of this should be done at all.
natural regeneration, without the use of herbicides or other means to control hardwoods.
Certainly there are foresters with more of a holistic outlook, however they are often severely hamstrung by the political driven forest practice laws, and the needs to supply the timber companies with their annal allowable cut. We are certainly miles behind California, when it comes to working with beavers.
I suspect there might be more foresters on your side than you assume.
80 years! That's impressive.
the Forest Service is eighty years into beaver restoration projects.
Well in that case, B.C. is well ahead of California, though there are some zones where the erosion was too extreme to revegetate properly, or the cattle ranchers moved in... trees are planted, but seedlings are not forest communities.
We're still fighting just to replant the clear cuts of the 60s & 70s, much less take on more ambitious projects.
Maybe I'm just a dreamer, but I think that with enough focus and effort, we can do much better than California has done. This is partly true because of our winter snow moisture gain situation, and partly due to B.C.'s higher rainfall. In comparison to California, there are way more water courses in B.C., way more snowmelt, and way more rainfall. The potential to tilt the ecosystems towards wetter biomes is absolutely massive.
I really do have to stress — this stuff takes a long time (much longer than our lifetimes)
Marco Banks wrote: Everywhere they have managed to survive or have been reintroduced, the pond and wetlands they build have radically transformed the landscape. Their dams hold water in the system, create all sorts of amazing new habitat for thousands of other species, recharge aquifers, and rehabilitate streams that have been excised by fast moving water to the point of severe erosion.
Bring back the beavers!
Yep. I sort of touched on this in the cattle ranching section near the end of the original post in this thread. The expansion of caribou and wolf population would make a huge difference on re-establishing natural forest succession patterns. At this time, wolves are culled provincially for a variety of very skewed reasons. Although my particular location is wetter than most of the major fire zones, the dead pines in my forest are literally dripping with lichens, which are a prime winter caribou feed. I'm sure this is also the case, but to a lesser extent, in the dryer areas. The dead pine region that is involved in the largest fire this year is called the Chilcoltin/Caribou. From my property, the mountains that I look at to the South are called the Caribou's. But to you think that we see many caribou? Not hardly any at all are ever seen.
So perhaps to encourage the beavers to make a more significant comeback in BC, we might need to let native wolf populations return.
This is exactly the case, and the trickle down effects on species would be radical and dramatic, as would the effect on climate, both local. regional, provincial, national and transnational.
And the trickle down effect would also involve more riparian regeneration, meaning more trees shading shallower watercourses, meaning lower water temperatures, higher oxygen levels, and a potential to counteract any eutrophying agents downstream. More oxygen in river systems could mean more food for all things up and down the chain, which could lead to things like healthier conditions for salmon, another keystone species in some parts. The effect of supporting the repopulation of some key species could easily have a reinforcing effect with benefits for the whole system, across the whole continent.
Beavers are rodents which multiply readily to the conditions that are available. The population is expanding and will continue to expand, if we let it, and they will spread into the watersheds, so long as there is food and the ability to stop waterflow. The infrastructure that the beavers effect, however, goes well beyond bridges. Imagine a farmer has a large rich hay field on a very gentle slope surrounded by poplar trees with a creek running through it near one side, and a couple of beavers show up. Soon there is a pond, and then the couple can work safe from predators and they can also more easily haul materials. They have kits (young) and they expand the pond system, building more dams and flooding more of the field. The farmer, not recognizing that the rich field's deep fertile soil was likely the result of such past actions of beavers, gets out his traps, or some dynamite, and gets to work himself; after all, he wants a field, not a pond system, and besides that his fence posts are starting to lean.
So I am hearing dissent on different parts of these issues. Most northern Ontarians that I have spoken to are of the opinion that beavers are a pest to be controlled strictly to protect the infrastructure they are likely to damage, like when they build lodges or dams up against bridges. While that's valid, I think it should be possible to designate wet firebreak areas, at least, such that we get the protective and regenerative aspects of healthy beaver populations without having to interact with them as a pest species around infrastructure.
There are thousands of products that can be developed, and wetland system tend to be very productive, including the ones in my previous post. Poplar forests have been under utilized for it's forest products, and in forestry thinking. Most farmers have to control the edges of their meadow as the poplar keeps creeping in. I believe that there is enormous potential for utilizing poplar, particularly because it reproduces and spreads mostly via clonal root networks. The biomass potential of poplar for a variety of uses, if managed properly, could help to greatly rebuild the depth of soils in some of the prairie system where erosion through poor farming practices has depleted the topsoil to a fraction of what it was 250 years ago. I am particularly interested in attempting a sustainable poplar coppice for biochar, and chip, production to enhance my own meadow's water and nutrient holding potential. I think that examples like mine will help people to understand what the potential is for having strips of forest, for instance, and it may take larger scale experimentation (on a large farm, I mean) to convince farmers of it's merits/potential. Also alley cropping and silvi-pastoral examples have to be demonstrated for people to have their minds changed... or it would at least make it a lot easier.
The step two in my mind is how to try and change people's perceptions. I can remember reading one of sepp holzer's books and how he learned from two bad situations that farms must be diversified. He felt strongly that resilient farms needed at least 4 different income streams, so that a bad year for one thing didn't result in a failed farm. That attitude is *not* common among any of the large farms in my area and farm organizations and the government tend to support that status quo. We need farmers to not just be "cattle farmers" and forestry companies to not just want fir trees.
I don't know about beavers supporting reads and cattails, but they support (create) aquatic systems, and these are naturally inhabited by reads and cattails via birds dropping seeds. [in the case of a large area that has not had significant pond formation for a while, a bit of seeding would do the trick when the beavers start pond building.] I have a suspicion that beavers eat reeds and cattails as well as tree cambium, but I don't know their full diet, but if the ecosystem is large enough they will not consume all of their resources. They do, sometimes have a habit of eating themselves out of an area's food supply (namely poplar cambium), not that they totally annihilate it, but that they reduce it to the point that it can not sustain it until the clones regenerate to more full size again.
Do you know enough about beaver ecosystems to determine that water leaving their system will be cleaner than that entering? If beavers support reed beds and cattails, I know they help water quality a lot.
I agree. Most beaver dams I've seen have water flowing through them, unless they are abandoned and they slowly collapse like a hukulkulture and the creek carves a channel through it's rotten matrix. My experience is that it is more of a leaky dam, and so on the up side of the dam it doesn't appear to be moving, but there must be a slow flow.
I can't believe they won't tolerate any noise of water running though, because as much as they want ponds, my minimal knowledge of them does not support stagnant water - just slow moving.
and you responded to it with this:
In some cases people say that it seems that specific beavers can not hear even the slightest trickle then they have to stop it, and divert it somewhere else, but I think that this is not really true to form.
but then when I was just reading the B.B.C. article you sent, I got this quote:
I can't believe they won't tolerate any noise of water running though, because as much as they want ponds, my minimal knowledge of them does not support stagnant water - just slow moving.
so I guess there is something to it.
With the sound of trickling water over the V-notched channel, the beavers' innate behaviour had taken over. They had dammed the equipment, raising the water levels overnight.
I just heard that the Green Party is planning an information meeting about wildfire preparedness and prevention. I think I shall send them an email with both Toby's article linked and the BBC one.
A healthy ecosystem produces lots of things that eat mosquito, so we need to focus on the healthy ecosystem part rather than the mosquito part.
Also there are great designs online for bat houses, and swallow houses.
Before beavers were introduced, only five clutches of frogspawn were recorded. Last year's surveys revealed over 550.