Dammed rivers could accelerate climate crisis as the American beaver moves into previously inhospitable areas up north.
The transformation of a rapidly warming Arctic is being accelerated by a wave of thousands of newcomers that are making their way up north: Beavers.
Read the full story in The Guardian.
Scientists who sought to map the spread of beavers in Alaska were astounded to find that the animals have pushed far north into previously inhospitable territory and are now set to sweep into the furthest northern extremities as the Arctic tundra continues to heat up due to the climate crisis.
Ken Tape, an ecologist at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, who co-authored the new research, said to The Guardian that the researchers were surprised by the discovery, as there were no evidence of in those part of Alaska 50 years ago.
Now, he sees no reason the animals will stop there, as the development probably is happening across the rest of the Arctic as well.
Using aerial photographs and satellite imagery reaching back to 1949, and observations recorded from before then, an international team of researchers involved in the Arctic Beaver Observation Network identified more than 12,000 ponds created by beavers damming rivers and streams across western Alaska. This number has doubled in the past 20 years.
The impact of the rodents has been felt by Indigenous communities of Alaska, with the flooded areas created by beavers causing concern over access to food and travel.
It is unknown how many beavers are now in the northern and western parts of Alaska, with estimates ranging from 50,000 to close to 100,000.
No stopping them
A broader consequence of the arrival of beavers could be the acceleration of the climate change. The pools that accumulate when beavers dam rivers create localized unfrozen “hotpots” that result in the thawing of permafrost, that holds vast amounts of carbon.
Tape said that the Brooks Range, a mountain range that runs across northern Alaska, will be an obstacle to the beavers but will not stop them as they follow rivers up to the north coast.
Further research is under way.