Satellite imagery from NASA has revealed some surprising and encouraging information about beavers. But these aren’t space beavers — rather, they are beavers that were “banished” to a remote Idaho valley and have since transformed it into a “lush wetland” that protects against wildfires, as Yale Environment 360 reported.
NASA data 🤝 beaver rewilding 🤝more resilient rivers— NASA Goddard (@NASAGoddard) August 29, 2023
In Idaho, @NASA remote sensing data is one of the tools being used to predict which streams can support beavers and to monitor how water and vegetation change once they return. 🦫 pic.twitter.com/05KXfDJBU9
Beavers have often been viewed as a nuisance, as they chew down trees and build dams that can flood fields. In the 1930s, officials began trapping them and relocating them to remote areas where they could, in theory, do less harm.
Instead of doing harm, the beavers did a lot of good, as their activities led to a sort of natural irrigation that promoted the growth of grasses, shrubs, and other vegetation that in turn supported many types of wildlife.
While it may seem like an iffy idea to introduce a species to an area that it previously did not inhabit, researchers have explained that prior to the rise of beaver hunting and trapping, the animals were ever present, meaning that reintroducing beavers is simply bringing population levels back to their normal.
“Prior to beaver trapping, beaver dams were just about everywhere in the West,” Wally Macfarlane, a researcher at Utah State University who co-developed the Beaver Restoration Assessment Tool, said in a NASA report. “So what we’re attempting to do is to bring beaver dam densities back to historic levels where possible. In doing so, we’re building important drought resiliency and restoring stream areas. I think there’s a lot of foresight by NASA realizing how these things connect.”
In addition to adding drought resiliency and increased biodiversity, the beavers have had the effect of helping to guard against wildfires. In one area where beavers were reintroduced, a 2018 wildfire left the parts where the beavers had settled untouched, Yale Environment 360 reported.
Similar efforts to reintroduce beavers in an effort to enhance biodiversity have also occurred in England.
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