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PANTHER CREEK BEAVER RESTORATION ASSESSMENT TOOL BUILDING REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS FOR PARTNERING WITH BEAVER IN RESTORATION & CONSERVATION Recommended Citation

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This report presents an application of the Beaver Restoration Assessment Tool 3.0.20 (BRAT; http://brat.riverscapes.xyz/), a tool for building realistic expectations for partnering with beaver in conservation and restoration (Macfarlane et al., 2017). In this application, we analyzed all the perennial rivers and streams within the Panther Creek watershed.Ut
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... Namely, they conservatively suggest that most meadows' proximity to campground infrastructure outweighs the indirect recreational benefits the beaver may bring. Yet although an infrastructure flooding risk can exist, it will not necessarily materialize or be unmitigable (Macfarlane et al. 2019). This is especially true since local human population attitudes towards wildlife frequently influence management decisions or approach outcomes (Decker et al. 2001). ...
... The validation of this output, based on the three forms of model verification overviewed in Methods from Macfarlane et al. (2014) and Macfarlane et al. (2019), is discussed below, with formatting and analyses closely following these two publications. The analyses are then followed by an overall output interpretation. ...
... It excludes limiting factors that were < 1% of the stream network. Cartographic format similar to maps created by Chalese Hafen (seeMacfarlane et al. 2019) ...
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Across the western United States, researchers are increasingly working with beaver (Castor canadensis) for process-based stream and watershed restoration. One recently-developed geographic information system-based tool, the Beaver Restoration Assessment Tool (BRAT), analyzes opportunities for beaver-assisted restoration (BAR) at a landscape-scale. However, this tool benefits significantly from human dimensions-inclusive, basin-centralized beaver knowledge for proper interpretation. Unfortunately, this information is scattered or absent in most semi-arid and arid southern California basins. This study thus sought to gather and produce this information through an explorative, benefits-maximizing approach to landscape-scale BAR opportunities assessment in one of these basins, the Salinas River. 49.2 km of beaver dam field surveys, an emailed survey and interviews completed by 39 riparian organizations and residents, and a BRAT model run produced: an ANOVA-driven statistical determination of beaver damming hotspot areas, a beaver damming consistency range map, seven computer assisted qualitative data analysis themes, and BRAT dam capacity and management outputs. When combined, these products revealed basin beaver dam dynamics, population behavior, ecosystem impacts, and human dimensions information that, despite their high-level nature, improved the quality and applicability of assessment recommendations. Ultimately, this study demonstrates how integrating a qualitative data component in landscape-scale BAR assessments is valuable for understanding basin-specific BAR opportunities and considerations, especially for basins without extensive prior beaver research efforts. Study findings also support literature that suggests the current BAR field’s focus on beaver damming, and not other beaver activities, may be too restrictive for maximizing its potential in California basins similar to the Salinas River. Perhaps most interestingly, study findings suggest that beaver may be more prevalent in southern California rivers and their tributaries than has been commonly understood. That beaver extensively utilize the Salinas River basin warrants further research efforts in this basin, in addition to surveys and studies in other major southern California basins, to better understand their prevalence and potential ecosystem tradeoffs within these hydrologic regions. To this point, in these basins where beaver need no reintroduction, California beaver advocacy groups may better promote proactive beaver management by adjusting education and communication strategies to emphasize these potential tradeoffs. In doing so, they have an opportunity to impart a healthier understanding among human communities of local ecosystem complexities.
... Note that, breaches and blow outs accelerate the riverscapes evolution model (Figure 11) as outlined in (Pollock et al., 2014). Specific example here from Macfarlane (2019). ...
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Chapter 3 of of Low-Tech Process-Based Restoration of Riverscapes: Design Manual (http://lowtechpbr.restoration.usu.edu) Planning for low-tech process-based restoration is similar to planning for other forms of restoration. •We adapt the Conservation Planning Process to show what aspects of the process are distinctive to low-tech process-based restoration. The Conservation Planning Process follows an adaptive management framework and has three phases: i) a Collection and Analysis (focused on planning), ii) a Decision Support (focused on design), and iii) an Application and Evaluation (focused on implementation). •For low-tech restoration, we pose four screening questions to identify where and if low-tech process-based restoration is appropriate. •In the Collection and Analysis Phase, current conditions of the riverscape (valley bottom), constraints and recovery potential are identified to help frame appropriate and realistic treatments and objectives in the design. •Low-tech restoration to reverse structural starvation of riverscapes frequently takes more than one treatment (and design). Therefore, in the design phase we set expectations for how many treatments might be necessaryto achieve the long-term restoration goal of a self-sustaining riverscape. •The implementation of a design involves an iteration between carrying out an individual treatment of structural additions and evaluation. Ultimately, it is assumed project goals will be met if the processes of wood accumulation and/or beaver dam activity make the transition from being mimicked and promoted by treatments to occurring on their own in a self-sustaining fashion. As such, the need for additional treatments versus recognizing the project has achieved its goals is evaluated with respect to the sustainability of these processes.
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Restoration of riparian and wet meadow ecosystems in semi‐arid rangelands of the western U.S. is a high priority given their ecological and hydrological importance in the region. However, traditional restoration approaches are often intensive and costly, limiting the extent over which they can be applied. Practitioners are increasingly trying new restoration techniques that are more cost effective, less intensive, and can more practically scale up to the scope of degradation. Unfortunately, practitioners typically lack resources to undertake outcome‐based evaluations necessary to judge the efficacy of these techniques. In this study, we use freely‐available, satellite remote sensing to explore changes in vegetation productivity (NDVI) of three distinct, low‐tech riparian and wet meadow restoration projects. Case studies are presented that range in geographic location (Colorado, Oregon, and Nevada), restoration practice (Zeedyk structures, beaver dam analogs, and grazing management), and time since implementation. Restoration practices resulted in increased vegetation productivity of up to 25% and increased annual persistence of productive vegetation. Improvements in productivity with time since restoration suggest that elevated resilience may further enhance wildlife habitat and increase forage production. Long‐term, documented outcomes of conservation are rare; we hope our findings empower practitioners to further monitor and explore the use of low‐tech methods for restoration of ecohydrologic processes at meaningful spatial scales. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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Beaver have been referred to as ecosystem engineers because of the large impacts their dam building activities have on the landscape; however, the benefits they may provide to fluvial fish species has been debated. We conducted a watershed-scale experiment to test how increasing beaver dam and colony persistence in a highly degraded incised stream affects the freshwater production of steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Following the installation of beaver dam analogs (BDAs), we observed significant increases in the density, survival, and production of juvenile steelhead without impacting upstream and downstream migrations. The steelhead response occurred as the quantity and complexity of their habitat increased. This study is the first large-scale experiment to quantify the benefits of beavers and BDAs to a fish population and its habitat. Beaver mediated restoration may be a viable and efficient strategy to recover ecosystem function of previously incised streams and to increase the production of imperiled fish populations.
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Biogenic features such as beaver dams, large wood, and live vegetation are essential to the maintenance of complex stream ecosystems, but these features are largely absent from models of how streams change over time. Many streams have incised because of changing climate or land-use practices. Because incised streams provide limited benefits to biota, they are a common focus of restoration efforts. Contemporary models of long-term change in streams are focused primarily on physical characteristics, and most restoration efforts are also focused on manipulating physical rather than ecological processes. We present an alternative view, that stream restoration is an ecosystem process, and suggest that the recovery of incised streams is largely dependent on the interaction of biogenic structures with physical fluvial processes. In particular, we propose that live vegetation and beaver dams or beaver dam analogues can substantially accelerate the recovery of incised streams and can help create and maintain complex fluvial ecosystems.
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Restoration projects in the United States typically have among the stated goals those of increasing channel stability and sediment storage within the reach. Increased interest in ecologically based restoration techniques has led to the consideration of introducing beavers to degraded channels with the hope that the construction of beaver dams will aggrade the channel. Most research on beaver dam modification to channels has focused on the long term effects of beavers on the landscape with data primarily from rivers in the western United States. This study illustrated that a role exists for beavers in the restoration of fine-grained, low gradient channels.A channel on the Atlantic Coastal Plain was analyzed before, during, and after beaver dams were constructed to evaluate the lasting impact of the beaver on channel morphology. The channel was actively evolving in a former reservoir area upstream a dam break. Colonization by the beaver focused the flow into the channel, allowed for deposition along the channel banks, and reduced the channel width such that when the beaver dams were destroyed in a flood, there was no channel migration and net sediment storage in the reach had increased. However, the majority of the deposition occurred at the channel banks, narrowing the channel width, while the channel incised between sequential beaver dams. The study indicated that where channels are unstable laterally and bank erosion is a concern, the introduction of beavers can be a useful restoration tool. However, because of the likelihood of increased channel bed erosion in a reach with multiple beaver dams, they may not be the best solution where aggradation of an incised channel bed is the desired result. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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Strychnine alkaloid baits were consumed by both captive and wild beaver without any apparent hesitation. An approximate minimal acute lethal dose of sodium monofluoro-acetate to beaver of mixed ages and sex was 0.202 mg/kg. Trapping beaver on four study area watersheds in Alabama with No. 330 conibear traps for approximately two weeks in winter during two successive years essentially eliminated beaver. Older individuals were trapped the first year, maturing juveniles and the remaining few adults were trapped the second year, and there was very little reproduction between the trapping periods. Trapping, with its recreational appeal, and income and food potential seems the better and more prudent approach to control of nuisance beaver than others being considered.
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Abstract The construction of beaver dams facilitates a suite of hydrologic, hydraulic, geomorphic, and ecological feedbacks that increase stream complexity and channel–floodplain connectivity that benefit aquatic and terrestrial biota. Depending on where beaver build dams within a drainage network, they impact lateral and longitudinal connectivity by introducing roughness elements that fundamentally change the timing, delivery, and storage of water, sediment, nutrients, and organic matter. While the local effects of beaver dams on streams are well understood, broader coverage network models that predict where beaver dams can be built and highlight their impacts on connectivity across diverse drainage networks are lacking. Here we present a capacity model to assess the limits of riverscapes to support dam-building activities by beaver across physiographically diverse landscapes. We estimated dam capacity with freely and nationally-available inputs to evaluate seven lines of evidence: (1) reliable water source, (2) riparian vegetation conducive to foraging and dam building, (3) vegetation within 100 m of edge of stream to support expansion of dam complexes and maintain large colonies, (4) likelihood that channel-spanning dams could be built during low flows, (5) the likelihood that a beaver dam is likely to withstand typical floods, (6) a suitable stream gradient that is neither too low to limit dam density nor too high to preclude the building or persistence of dams, and (7) a suitable river that is not too large to restrict dam building or persistence. Fuzzy inference systems were used to combine these controlling factors in a framework that explicitly also accounts for model uncertainty. The model was run for 40,561 km of streams in Utah, USA, and portions of surrounding states, predicting an overall network capacity of 356,294 dams at an average capacity of 8.8 dams/km. We validated model performance using 2852 observed dams across 1947 km of streams. The model showed excellent agreement with observed dam densities where beaver dams were present. Model performance was spatially coherent and logical, with electivity indices that effectively segregated capacity categories. That is, beaver dams were not found where the model predicted no dams could be supported, beaver avoided segments that were predicted to support rare or occasional densities, and beaver preferentially occupied and built dams in areas predicted to have pervasive dam densities. The resulting spatially explicit reach-scale (250 m long reaches) data identifies where dam-building activity is sustainable, and at what densities dams can occur across a landscape. As such, model outputs can be used to determine where channel–floodplain and wetland connectivity are likely to persist or expand by promoting increases in beaver dam densities.
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The US Castor canadensis population has caused severe damage to valuable timberland through dam-building and flooding of bottomland forest. Since beaver populations are mobile, beaver extermination in controlled parcels results in beaver immigration from neighbouring less controlled parcels. This study develops a bioeconomic model that incorporates dispersive population dynamics of beavers into the design of a cost-minimizing trapping strategy. The optimality system for this problem is solved numerically. The validity of the theoretical model is examined using the bioeconomic data collected for the Wildlife Management Regions of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The optimal trapping program causes the initially uneven population to eventually smooth out across the habitat. -from Authors
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Through dam building and feeding activities, beaver act as a keystone species to alter hydrology, channel geomorphology, biogeochemical pathways and community productivity. In Quebec, density of dams on the small streams (= or <4th order) studied averages 10.6 dams/km; the streams retain up to 6500 m3 of sediment per dam, and the wetted surface area of the channel is increased up to several hundredfold. Beaver are also active in larger order streams (= or >5th order), but their effects are most noticeable along riverbanks and in floodplains. Comparative carbon budgets per unit area for a riffle on 2nd order Beaver Creek and a beaver pond downstream show the pond receives only 42% of the carbon acquired by the riffle annually, but because the pond has a surface area 7 times greater than the riffle, it receives nearly twice as much carbon as the riffle per unit of channel length. Carbon in the pond has an estimated turnover time of 161 yr compared to 24 yr for the riffle. Beaver ponds are important sites for organic matter processing. -from Authors
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A characteristic of beaver ecology is their ability to build dams and, thus, to modify the landscape to increase its suitability for their occupation. This ability gives beaver great significance as a geomorphic agent. In order to review the hydrogeomorphological effects of beaver dam-building activity, this article places a context on the likely distribution and magnitude of beaver activity by considering the spatial and temporal variability of distributions of beaver and the habitat characteristics which might favour the establishment of substantial beaver populations. A description is then given of the nature and potential dimensions of instream structures built by beaver and the environmental conditions under which dam building has been observed to occur. The hydrogeomorphological impact of dam building is then appraised both locally and at the landscape scale, illustrating the very significant process modification caused by beaver. While the European beaver, Castor fiber, is the main focus of this review, it necessarily draws extensively on the much larger literature concerning the North American beaver (Castor canadensis).