It turns out that beavers and all the pesky dam things they do (get it…dam) in rivers and streams serve a hugely important purpose in helping our planet maintain its delicate and ever important balance.
Scientists at the University of Rhode Island have discovered that their habitats and all the organic matter the critters carry with them along the way can reduce the amount of nitrogen gas found in rivers and streams by as much as 45 per cent.
Why is this important, you ask? Well, although we humans require precious oxygen in order to keep on ticking, 78 per cent of the Earth’s atmosphere is made up of nitrogen. It’s an ultra-thin gas that works in coordination with other gases found on the periodic table of elements to protect our planet and all its ecosystems, and it’s also used by farmers to grow crops.
Here’s the thin: although nitrogen is a necessity in the atmosphere and in agriculture, it actually promotes the growth of algae once too much of the gas finds its way into rivers and lakes. Algae takes nutrients away from other plants and animals that need it. Since three-quarters of the Earth consists of bodies of water, that’s not a manageable long-term side effect.
Now that scientists know the animal featured on our nation’s nickel can work the magic necessary to help keep things balanced, the next challenge becomes figuring out where to get beavers to build their habitats.
At the moment, scientists are looking to solve that problem by building man-made versions that slow down streams and use the same organic materials beavers do. They’ve recreated the effects of these ideas by using empty bottles of soda and filling them with water in order to produce similar circumstances on a smaller scale.
It’s so crazy how the small things humans do to make life more convenient always seem to have an adverse effect on the environment. Yet at the same time with in-depth research and a little bit of creativity, we can find a way to balance out our own negative impact and help the world maintain some sort of equilibrium.
Although the battle against pollution, deforestation, the extinction of animals and all kinds of other environmental issues seems to be never ending, at least we know that beavers help the world go round and we can do something to prevent the growth of that pesky algae.
There’s clearly no better time than now to leave it to beaver!
By the way: here's a video of beavers parachuting in Idaho in 1948.