The North American beaver is changing the Arctic by building lodges along lakes, rivers, ponds, and streams. There has been an increase in the number of beaver lodges, and the population has doubled in the last 20 years, reaching at least 12,000. Scientists are keeping tabs on the northern landscape’s beaver population boom, and their predictions indicate that the whole north slope of Alaska will be beset by beavers by the year 2100.
The warming of a once-too-bleak area and the subsequent fall of trapping have led to a beaver explosion. The Arctic tundra has become more shrubby due to global warming, which has also reduced the length of winters and increased the amount of water that runs freely during those months. Beavers don’t cut down trees for their dams; they make deep ponds from vegetation around their homes.
The dams serve as functional obstacles, and the rivers and streams transform into the landscape’s highways, all because of the newcomers. More land gets inundated as construction increases and fresh water for drinking may become scarcer downstream. On the other hand, the creatures are involved in a feedback loop: as a result of climate change, the terrain becomes more accessible to beavers, which in turn causes the ponds to warm up, which in turn attracts even more paddle-tailed friends.
Physics predicted this because beaver ponds cover exposed permafrost, causing the earth to melt and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Thanks to infrared photographs taken by NASA aircraft flying over the area and high-resolution satellite data, scientists have proof that beavers contribute to global warming. Next year, scientists want to take ground methane readings to see how emissions change with the beaver pond age.
Scientists are watching beavers in northern Canada and Alaska because of the identical impact that ponds built on permafrost would have there. Even while not all beavers construct dams, the ones that do have the potential to alter fish migration patterns, flood formerly accessible areas, and cut off pathways. Even without methane emissions, researchers and indigenous groups are still unsure what to do.
At the annual Arctic Beaver Observation Network conference in Fairbanks, Alaska, in February, the topic will be discussed among researchers, indigenous people, land managers, and others.