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Saving the DammedWhy We Need Beaver-Modified Ecosystems$
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Ellen Wohl

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190943523

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190943523.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 09 May 2021

September: Alternate Realities

September: Alternate Realities

September: Alternate Realities
Saving the Dammed

Ellen Wohl

Oxford University Press

The first week of September mostly feels like summer. The air on the dry terrace bordering the beaver meadow is richly scented with pine. Purple aster, blue harebells, and tall, yellow black-eyed Susan still bloom. Fungi are more abundant on the forest floor, and the tiny, purplish berries of kinnikinnick are sweet to the taste. The air is warm in the sunshine, but strong winds hurry rain showers through at intervals. Patches of last year’s snow linger on the surrounding peaks, even as the first light snows have already fallen in the high country. Down in the beaver meadow, the leaves of aspen, willow, birch, and alder are starting to assume their autumn colors. Here and there a small patch of yellow or orange appears among the green. Blades of grass have a pale orange tint and the strawberry leaves have gone scarlet, even as white asters, purple thistles, and a few other flowers continue to bloom. The creek is noticeably lower, its cobble bed slick with rust-brown algae. Exposed cobble and sandbars have grown wider as the water has shrunk back from the edge of the willows, and the main channel is easy to cross on foot. The clear water is chillingly cold in both the main channel and the side channels. The smaller side channels no longer flow, and a drape of mud mixed with bits of plants covers the cobbles. Wood deposited a year ago has weathered to pale gray. The older, marginal beaver ponds have shrunk noticeably, and the water is lower in the main ponds, where tall sedges now lie bent on the top of the declining water surface. The beavers remain active: following fresh moose tracks, I come on a newly built beaver dam on a small side channel. By the third week of September, autumn has clearly arrived in the mountains. The air remains quite warm during the day, but nights of frost are swiftly bringing out the autumn colors. Whole stands of willows and aspen now glow golden or pumpkin-orange.

Keywords:   beaver physiology, carbon, channelization, connectivity, elk grassland, nitrogen

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