Geoscientist finds beavers play a role in climate change

July 18, 2013 by Bob Yirka, report
North American beaver (Castor canadensis) Credit: Wikipedia.

Ellen Wohl, a geology professor at Colorado State University, has published a paper in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, describing the role beavers play in climate change. In a field study she undertook, she found that carbon is sequestered when beavers build dams and is released after the beavers abandon the dams they've built.

Most people are aware that build dams. They're responsible for river and stream blockage across many parts of North America. What has not been known, until now, is what sort of impact beaver dams and their backed up water have on carbon sequestering.

Carbon of course, exists in the wood of trees. When trees die and decompose, that carbon is released into the atmosphere. But what happens when the wood of a dead tree becomes submerged beneath the water of a built by a beaver? That's what Wohl set out to learn.

In a field study in Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park, Wohl took samples from areas known as beaver meadows—the land that has become submerged or wet due to dams backing up or streams. She collected 29 sediment samples from the wet areas around 27 streams in the park. Upon analysis, the sediment turned out to be harboring 12 percent carbon by weight. This was in stark contrast to sediment samples she and colleagues collected last year in beaver meadows where the dams had been abandoned allowing the land to dry. There the samples revealed of just 3.3 percent. Wood buried beneath water and sediment decays more slowly than wood left on dry land. Thus, by building dams, beavers cause the carbon in the wood to be sequestered—at least until they abandon the dam and allow the water behind it to dry up.

Wohl's data suggests that if all the beaver meadow land now dried due to abandoned dams were still wet, the amount of additional carbon sequestered would add up to 2.7 million metric tons. Much of that was released in the years shortly after the North American continent was colonized—trappers significantly reduced the population of beavers leaving millions of dams abandoned.

Carbon sequestered by beaver dams hardly registers on a global scale of course—almost ten billion tons of it is added to the atmosphere worldwide each year. Nonetheless, Wohl's study shows that at least some of those emissions can come from some surprising places.

Explore further: Beavers: Dam good for songbirds

More information: Geophysical Research Letters DOI: 10.1002/grl.50710

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1.8 / 5 (30) Jul 18, 2013
The fat lady just sang as Fonzie jumped a shark on the Gong Show.
1.9 / 5 (28) Jul 18, 2013
It should be made illegal for beavers to abandon dams.
1.9 / 5 (31) Jul 18, 2013
Since the preponderance of evidence, not conjecture or oft repeated myths, strongly suggests atmospheric "carbon" has a very small effect on climate change, AKA "global warming", & that reduces the significance of this study to essentially zero.

Also close to zero is the sense of humor of the people rating the above 2 comments (and probably this one too)
2 / 5 (29) Jul 18, 2013
Since the preponderance of evidence, not conjecture or oft repeated myths, strongly suggests atmospheric "carbon" has a very small effect on climate change, AKA "global warming", & that reduces the significance of this study to essentially zero.

Also close to zero is the sense of humor of the people rating the above 2 comments (and probably this one too)

There's a religious dogma that prohibits the use of humor, satire, sarcasm and ridicule by those to the right of the Apostle Karl of Marx, unless it's self effacing. However, when directed at those evil people by leftists, it is not only permissible, but demanded by Psalm 5 of the Sacred Scrolls of St Saul, to wit:
"Ridicule is man's most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counteract ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage."

So remember to mind your tongue when speaking of Followers of the Collective and their unicorns and rainbows.
2.2 / 5 (26) Jul 18, 2013
"According to a new U.N. report, the global warming outlook is much worse than originally predicted.
Which is pretty bad when they originally predicted it would destroy the planet."

Jay Leno
1.8 / 5 (26) Jul 18, 2013
That all of my comments are rated down within seconds by about five votes after being posted at odd hours reveals bots, not real opinion. The comic artist John Cook who organizes online AGW activism bragged about personally creating Twitter bots to antagonize those of us who deny climate.
2.2 / 5 (27) Jul 18, 2013
"Yesterday, a group of scientists warned that because of global warming, sea levels will rise so much that parts of New Jersey will be under water.
The bad news?
Parts of New Jersey won't be under water."

Conan O'Brien
1.8 / 5 (26) Jul 18, 2013
Lets play with the bot that owns five accounts on

Polar bears are dying due to Global Warming.

1.8 / 5 (25) Jul 18, 2013
"Dat wascally bot gotta way."
1.8 / 5 (25) Jul 18, 2013
"Jokes of the proper kind, properly told, can do more to enlighten questions of politics, philosophy, and literature than any number of dull arguments."

Isaac Asimov
1.3 / 5 (25) Jul 18, 2013
But this is science Claudius - and your quote does nothing to address your willingness to sidestep the factual discussion - and to resort to quoting late night comics.

Also Claudius - are you aware of Asomov's view of AGW?

djr - the perfect straight man.

No, climate science has become a laughing stock. Humor is the only approach now.
4.7 / 5 (12) Jul 18, 2013
I'm hearing that climate science is laughing stock and that CO2 is not involved in global warming. Who says this and where can I read their arguments?
1.5 / 5 (22) Jul 18, 2013
Beavers are a real problem in central MA. Trapping is banned and beaver ponds are creating real problems.
""We have a huge problem," said David Pavlik, an engineer for the town of Lexington, where dams built by beavers have sent water flooding into the town's sanitary sewers. "We trapped them," he said. "We breached their dam. Nothing works. We are looking for long-term solutions."

Mary Hansen, a conservation agent from Maynard, said it starkly: "There are beavers everywhere." "
4.1 / 5 (14) Jul 19, 2013
BTW, The beavers are stealing my trees. (that's almost on topic, and true) I am one of those that will, for now on, forever mark Nik with a one unless he accidently posts something intelligent. Maybe then I'll make it a three. I will rate him at odd hours half the time, and even hours the rest (on average)

1.6 / 5 (25) Jul 19, 2013
Nice beaver you got there!

Shave the is that save...
1.5 / 5 (22) Jul 19, 2013
Nice beaver you got there!

Shave the is that save...

For most, adolescence ends.

For those with sense, a joke is appreciated.
3 / 5 (20) Jul 20, 2013
Nice to see so many of the scientifically illiterate have the opportunity to display some of their other facets.
1 / 5 (10) Jul 29, 2013
I warm to beavers

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