Where is Low-Tech Process-Based Restoration of Beaver Complexes Appropriate, Feasible, and Most Efficient?

Apr 10, 2022

Contributed by Mark Beardsley and Jessica Doran, Ecologists, EcoMetrics

Beaver are being hailed as one of the most cost-effective and sustainable solutions for ecological restoration and climate change resilience[1], and “light-touch” low-tech process-based restoration (LTPBR) projects that involve beaver are becoming increasingly popular in the western US (Wheaton et. al. 2019).

Unlike more heavy-handed engineering and design-build river enhancement strategies, beaver-related LTPBR is an inherently ecological (as per Palmer et al. 2005), process-based (as per Beechie et al. 2010), and biomic (as per Johnson et al. 2019 and Castro and Thorne 2019) approach to restoring riverscape health that can only work in proper settings. Beaver mimicry and/or beaver reintroduction are only appropriate on riverscapes where beaver complexes naturally existed prior to human disturbance (Wheaton et al. 2019, Pollock et al. 2017) and where they can practically and feasibly be restored given the legacy of anthropogenic impacts and constraints of contemporary land and water use. 

In a recent report (EcoMetrics 2022), we share the thinking we put into selecting sites for LTPBR/Beaver restoration projects sites for our work with Colorado Open Lands in Park County, Colorado. While simple computer models of beaver capacity like BRAT (Scamardo et. al. 2022, MacFarlane 2017) may be a start, professional evaluation of simple hydrogeomorphic, ecological, beaver population, and land use patterns are probably more reliable for accurately selecting sites and predicting landscape-scale potential. In this report, we outline our simple pragmatic approach for mapping LTPBR/Beaver restoration opportunities on a landscape. Click the picture below to get the report.

[1] USFWS, Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office, Beaver Restoration website (2022)


Colorado Riparian Association