Once Valued for Little More than their Fur, Beavers Are our Newest Clean Water Allies
Add beavers to the list of nature-based solutions we love.
Nitrogen is one of the most problematic pollutants in the Potomac and the Chesapeake Bay. Nitrates, nitrogen-based chemicals found in fertilizers and other chemical compounds, wash off agricultural and urban areas after rain in the form of polluted runoff. Wastewater treatment plants also contribute to the problem.
Less nitrogen means healthier streams, creeks, and rivers and improved habitat for fish and other wildlife.
News about the beaver's pollution-fighting powers is helping change the perception of North America's largest rodent, an animal that was nearly lost a century ago to overhunting. Populations have been rebounding across the country in recent decades and this news only adds to the beaver's impressive comeback story — from pest to clean water warrior.
Though beavers have been used to help restore streams before, it was not known that their presence on a stream or creek reduces nitrogen pollution.
So how does the beaver do it?
When a beaver builds a dam, the dam traps water behind it, forming a pond. Aquatic plants like lily pads sprout up in the pond, and the dead leaves and plant matter eventually fall to the bottom to decompose, becoming feast material for bacteria.
As the plant material decomposes, oxygen levels drop, and the bacteria are forced to find another source of oxygen. They turn to the nitrates in the water, breaking down the chemicals, using the oxygen, and releasing the nitrogen out of the water as a gas.
All because of the busy beaver.
We’re pretty sure the beavers have no idea this is going on, but we love them anyway.
You May Also Like
A new clean water partnership is taking shape! The Nation’s Triathlon is joining forces with Potomac Conservancy, enabling triathletes and their families to join the fight for a cleaner, healthier Potomac River.
Have you noticed? Green streets are sprouting up in neighborhoods across the DMV.
From rain gardens to permeable pavement to roadside trees, “green streets” are doing more than boosting curb appeal. Learn more about this new landscaping trend and how it just might save the Potomac.
The Potomac River is beginning to thrive once more because leaders like you are standing up for clean streams in our communities.
Read a special message from Potomac Conservancy's leadership announcing the release of our 2016 Annual Report and discover how our local movement of over 21,000 river champions is fighting for clean water here at home!
June is Great Outdoors Month! What better way to celebrate than to get outside and get fit?
Ditch the treadmill and give your workout a boost by heading down to the river.
On your next hike, paddle, or weekend country ride, thank a neighbor for the natural views you enjoy.
Residents are helping save our wild places on their private lands. Learn how in this photo blog that's sure to inspire your next outdoor adventure.
When there's nonstop news, it can be hard (and exhausting) to keep up. We understand.
That's why we've compiled some quick updates on on the 3 most important federal water issues facing our local streams.
And it's not all bad news!
From the experts at Backyard Bounty:
Check out 3 "river friendly" garden makeovers in Montgomery County and learn how you can turn your backyard into a beautiful and responsible urban oasis.
Get a behind the scenes peek at White Horse Mountain, one of the largest remaining tracts of undeveloped land in our region.
Plus, find out how you can help turn this mountain into the area's newest recreation destination!
If you've never been out on the river with Potomac Conservancy, you might have some questions before signing up for your first event. For instance . . .
What's it like to try stand up paddleboarding for the first time?
What's the downside to attending a cleanup?
What exactly goes on during a "spirituality in nature walk"?
Ross is here to help! He's been getting his hands dirty and feet wet at Team Potomac events for over two years. He tells it like it is and gives his honest advice to those looking for a way to get involved.
The president just put a value on clean water: $0.
Find out how you can speak up and make your voice heard to defend the Chesapeake Bay and protect the Potomac.