While cottagers might associate beavers with flooding their property or cutting down all of their trees, these buck-toothed creatures aren’t all bad. According to recent research, they help Canadian geese return home each spring.
Along with students and colleagues at the University of Alberta, associate professor Glynnis Hood conducted a study that found ponds with active beaver populations show open water in spring nearly two weeks earlier than other ponds. So what does this mean for geese?
When much of the Canadian landscape is still covered with snow and ice, beaver ponds are able to provide the geese with access to new food sources and allow the birds to nest and lay eggs earlier, giving them a breeding advantage, says the study. Therefore, without the beavers, there would be fewer ideal nesting structures for geese and their risk of predators could also increase.
This is why Hood refers to beavers as a “keystone species,” meaning they play a unique and crucial role in the way an ecosystem functions.
“Once they’re removed from the system, the system really starts to degrade and some organisms that used to flourish just really don’t exist anymore,” Hood told the Edmonton Journal.
Reported in the Mammalian Biology, the study surveyed 32 active and 39 inactive beaver ponds in Miquelon Lake Provincial Park, located southeast of Edmonton, Alberta.