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article imageYou and whose army? Beavers are changing the world

By Tim Sandle     Dec 20, 2014 in Environment
Saskatoon - Major conservation efforts have helped save beavers from extinction. Interestingly, this action has had consequences: an increase in the generation of methane gas.
As a result of improved habitats and protection from predators and hunters, there has been a significant rise in the population of beavers over the past 100 years. This means that the furry aquatic rodents have built many more ponds. In doing so, beavers have created conditions for climate changing methane gas to be generated in shallow standing water. This gas is then released into the atmosphere.
It has been estimated that there is 200 times more of this greenhouse gas is released from beaver ponds today compared with 100 years ago. Going back to this time the beaver fur trade was at its height. During the twentieth century there were concerted efforts to protect and, in some regions, reintroduce the beaver to its traditional habitats, especially the North American (Castor canadensis) and Eurasian (Castor fiber) beavers.
According to an overview of the research, beavers are adept at building dams in rivers to create standing open-water ponds. Beavers use dams to provide still, deep water to protect against predators, and to float food and building material. They also build their homes (known as "lodges") in the resulting pond. These ponds are typically shallow (around 1.5 meters high.) Carbon builds up in the oxygen-poor pond bottoms and methane is generated. This climate warming gas cannot adequately dissolve in the shallow water, so it is released into the atmosphere.
However, if this is deemed to be a problem, then the only solution offered by the research is population control.
The estimations of methane gas emissions have been made by researchers based at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada. The findings have been published in the journal AMBIO. The research is titled "Beaver-mediated methane emission: The effects of population growth in Eurasia and the Americas."
More about Beavers, Dams, Methane, Climate change, Global warming
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