Beavers Change the Idaho Landscape With Help From NASA

Researchers have become beaver believers!

Oct 15, 2023
Beavers Change the Idaho Landscape With Help From NASA | Researchers have become beaver believers!

Beavers are some of the world’s best landscape architects. They can take an arid environment and turn it green, all with the useful placement of some dams. Now, a joint project between the Idaho Department of Fish and Wildlife, Boise State University, and NASA is hoping to prove just how helpful beavers can be.

An Arid Landscape
According to Mongabay, Idaho doesn’t get a lot of rainfall. Most of its water comes from snowmelt in the mountains. Part of the issue with this is that when the water flows too quickly it simply flows right out of the state. Slowing the water down helps create marshes and flooded pastures, and keeps the water in the state later into the summer. 

Any way to retain more water, or keep it a little longer into the season, is typically beneficial,” a biologist for the Idaho Department of Fish and Wildlife told Mongabay News. 

One way to slow water down is to add wood, especially beaver dams both artificial and real. So, according to KTVB, the researchers are working together to track the changes the introduction of beavers makes in the southeastern parts of Idaho. 

As Seen from Space
NASA joined the project in 2020, reported Mongabay. Since then, it has been providing the researchers with satellite data that they have been using for two purposes. 

First is to find good locations for beaver releases. Sending people by foot can be time consuming and costly. Having satellite photos saves effort and money. Likewise, once the beavers have been in their new habitats for a while, the NASA satellite data helps the researchers get an overarching look at how they have changed the landscape and rivers around them. 

However, you don’t need to be in space to see the impact that beavers can make on an environment. In 2022, reported Boise State News, the researchers made a visit to Jay Wilde, a veteran rancher near Preston Idaho. That’s because in 2014, Wilde worked to restore beavers to  Birch Creek, a tributary of the Great Salt Lake. Birch Creek is now home to over 200 beaver dams and as a result has 42 additional days of streamflow to help keep Wilde’s horses and cattle watered. 

Wilde said told Boise State News that the re-addition of beavers to the creek has created an uptick in insects, birds, and native fish in the area, all things that are indications of a healing ecosystem. 

The beaver project is a testament to how both the most advanced technology and the simplest natural processes can come together to heal the environment.

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Tiki is a freelance writer, editor, and translator with a passion for writing stories. She believes in taking small actions to positively impact the world. She spends her free time reading, baking, creating art, and walking her rescue dog.