Busy Beavers: Nature's Ecosystem Engineers

The scale of the projects undertaken by these "ecosystem engineers" might be smaller than those of humans, but when busy beavers get to work they create wetlands habitat that in turn supports a wide diversity of wildlife.



busy beavers ecosystem engineers - beaver with tree
Like humans, busy beavers are ecosystem engineers. Unlike humans, beavers rely on sharp teeth to get the dam-building materials they need.
PHOTO: LYNN M. STONE
busy beaver ecosystem engineers - beaver in water
Beavers are more graceful in the water than on land.
MINDEN PICTURES/KONRAD WOTHE
beaver dam
The beaver dam, a collection of sticks and mud, slows the stream’s flow, creating a still pond to house the beaver’s year-round lodge.
LYNN M. STONE
beaver lodge
A beaver lodge grows as the beavers add new material each year.
LYNN M. STONE
beaver tail
A beaver’s tail is useful for slapping the water to alert the family to danger.
MINDEN PICTURES/MICHAEL QUINTON
baby beaver
A beaver’s tail is useful for balance when the beaver is sitting up cutting trees or eating tender shoots.
THINKSTOCK/HEMERA TECHNOLOGIES
ringed trees
On occasion, beavers kill trees larger than they are able to cut down and use.
LYNN M. STONE
beaver's tail
A beaver’s tail has multiple uses – for balance, as a rudder and to warn of danger.
DWIGHT KUHN
beaver in branches
After felling a tree, the beaver prunes off leafy branches and uses them to build its lodge or dam.
GRANT HEILMAN PHOTO
clear water dam
To anchor a new dam, beavers jam cut branches into the soft stream bottom.
MINDEN PICTURES/GERRY ELLIS











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