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Why beavers matter as the planet heats up

Beaver dams are cool(ing the air).

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If you know anything about beavers, it’s probably that they build dams. These giant structures made of sticks, stones, and mud can reach heights up to 10 feet (3 meters) and lengths averaging 20 feet (6 meters) — though the biggest one ever found was significantly larger and could be seen from space. Dams completely alter the surrounding landscape, flooding the surrounding area and creating wetlands. It’s one reason beavers have often been considered pests that can cause serious damage when they build dams too close to homes or roads.

But scientists have also understood beavers’ importance as “ecosystem engineers” for decades. And as the climate crisis continues to worsen, newer studies are finding that beavers play a vital role in dampening its effects — especially in areas prone to fire, drought, and even heat waves. To build a more resilient future, it might be best to look to the beavers.

Check out the video above to learn more, and read the related article by Benji Jones on Vox.com: https://www.vox.com/down-to-earth/23273240/heat-wave-beavers-climate-change

Note: this video’s thumbnail has been updated since its original publication.

You can find Emily’s study on how beaver dams create fire breaks here: https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/eap.2225

For more about the work that Emily does (and the miraculous work of beavers), check out her website: https://emilyfairfaxscience.com/research/

For more on how beaver dams reduce stream temperature and increase groundwater storage: https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ecs2.4168

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