Creature Feature

Creature Feature – Keys to the Kingdom: Beavers

Posted by  //  April 21, 2021  //  Articles, Creature Feature

In ancient times, Roman architects designed arches by stacking square stones on top of one another, leaning inward.  A keystone was placed at the top of the arch to dissipate the weight from all those below.  Removing the keystone caused the entire arch to collapse.  

In much the same way, a “keystone species” functions within an ecosystem by playing a role no other species can perform.  When a keystone species declines or is removed, it can result in the collapse of an entire ecosystem.  One such valuable keystone species is the beaver.

In a relatively short period of time, industrious beavers transform moving streams into ponds, creating surrounding wetlands that provide habitat and breeding places for multitudes of species.  Without beavers, this process would take decades or possibly centuries to occur.  The altered landscape creates a complex eco-web.  Flooded, decaying trees provide food and nesting opportunities for various woodpeckers, nest cavities for wood ducks, rookery sites for herons and look-out perches for ospreys, owls and kingfishers.  Waterfowl, muskrats, mink and otters move in, as well as turtles, snakes, frogs, dragonflies and damselflies.  Songbirds feed on the explosion of insects.  The growth of new aquatic plants and meadow grasses invites voles, rabbits, and deer to browse, which in turn attracts species like hawks, foxes, fishers and coyotes.  

By creating diverse, vibrant ecosystems, beavers truly hold keys to the natural kingdom.

Article & Photo by Margie Manthey

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