Tuesday, October 6, 2020

"How beavers became North America's best firefighter"

A new study concludes that, by building dams, forming ponds, and digging canals, beavers irrigate vast stream corridors and create fireproof refuges in which plants and animals can shelter. In some cases, the rodents’ engineering can even stop fire in its tracks.


A green, hydrated plant, of course, is also less flammable than a desiccated, crispy one. And that’s what makes beaver ecosystems so fireproof. In beaver-dammed stream sections, Fairfax and Whittle found, vegetation remained more than three times lusher as wildfire raced over the creek. Beavers had so thoroughly saturated their valleys that plants simply didn’t ignite.

These lifeboats don’t merely protect beavers themselves: A broad menagerie—including amphibians, reptiles, birds, and small mammals—likely hunker down in these beaver-built fire “refugia,”