Ecosystem engineers are ecologically important species that benefit other species by physically altering their environment.
One of the most comprehensive studies conducted on beavers has conclusively demonstrated that beavers are essential for freshwater conservation and ecosystem stability by creating and preserving aquatic and wetland environments in Minnesota. This new research from the Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) at the University of Minnesota Duluth was recently published in the journal Ecography.
“Although there are many studies on how beavers change ecosystems, the scale of this study—spanning 70 years across five different watersheds—is really unprecedented and, as a result, gave us the unique opportunity to understand how beavers transform and engineer ecosystems over long time periods and large spatial scales,” said Tom Gable, coauthor of the study and a postdoctoral researcher in the University of Minnesota Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology. “We think this work will be of value to many conservationists, scientists and citizens who want to understand how reintroduced or recovering beaver populations can positively affect their ecosystems.”
Understanding how ecosystems become more resilient is a key goal for ecologists because it can provide insights into how ecosystems may respond to human impacts and climate change. This study suggests beavers, as ecosystem engineers, can be a biological tool that helps buffer ecosystems against disturbances and alterations.
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