Lessons from the Beaver World

As the world’s population increases, there is a growing demand for various resources. The main resource under stress is water. Water is required for the production of food and energy which are essential for human survival. The same water is required for ecosystem services and human uses such as domestic, drinking and sanitation.

To meet most of these needs, we have opted to use various infrastructural and technological methods such as the building of reservoirs. Unfortunately with these developments, the ecosystem has more often than not been left in the backseat. Even worse, in majority of the locations whereby these developments are taking place, the main stakeholders, the riverine people both upstream and downstream are rarely consulted. The immediate economic benefits override the long term effects on the environment and the people.

Beavers are aquatic rodents famous for building dams, canals and lodges (homes). They build these dams to provide still, deep waters which act as protection against its predators. They first place vertical poles, then place branches horizontally and finally fill the gaps between the branches with a combination of plants and mud until the dam holds enough water to surround their homes. These flooded areas become productive wetlands which are rated as the world’s most valuable land based ecosystems. It is said that after beavers abandon their lodges/ponds, as the wood decays it eventually transforms into marsh. Amazing…Huh?

And before I forget, these cute little engineers do not exist in Africa… 😦

What do beavers therefore teach us?
It is possible to have dams that are not only economically beneficial but also ecologically and socially beneficial. This can only be achieved if dams are built after wide stakeholder involvement and a series of analyses (cost benefit analyses, environmental impact analyses and social impact analyses). If beavers are able to leave the environment better than they found it, so can we.

 

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