Millions of highly skilled environmental engineers stand ready to make our continent more resilient to climate change.
They restore wetlands that absorb carbon, store water, filter pollution and clean and cool waters for salmon and trout. They are recognized around the world for helping to reduce wildfire risk. Scientists have valued their environmental services at close to $179,000 per square mile annually.
And they work for free.
Our ally in mitigating and adapting to climate change could be a paddle-tailed rodent: the North American beaver.
There’s a strong consensus among scientists and environmental managers on the benefits of working with beavers to protect our natural environments. Beavers can help us continue to live on, work with and enjoy our landscape. As ecosystem engineers, they build dams and dig canals to escape predators. Their manipulation of plants for food and building materials produces wide-ranging environmental gains.
Yet despite beavers’ ecosystem benefits, we have long pushed them out of their homes. When the European-American fur trade killed hundreds of millions of beavers, it destroyed the engine that built and maintained North American wetlands. California alone has lost an estimated 90% of its wetland area. Humans continue to tear down beavers’ dams and lodges when they get in our way.
- Constructed Wetlands