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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: 14 May 2021

April: Six Degrees of Connectivity

April: Six Degrees of Connectivity

April: Six Degrees of Connectivity
Saving the Dammed

Ellen Wohl

Oxford University Press

By late April, the snow is gone from the beaver meadow. The promises of March are starting to be fulfilled: insects are on the wing, some of the willows have furry catkins along their branches, and fish jump from the quiet waters of the beaver ponds. I can no longer easily get around the beaver meadows on foot unless I wear chest waders. The sound of the beaver meadow in March was primarily wind. By April, the sound is primarily moving water. The water gurgles, shushes, and whispers. In another month it will roar with the melting snows. Another three miles up the creek valley and 1,500 feet higher, one of my long-term study sites still lies under 6 feet of snow, but in the meadow I see only one patch of tenacious snow-ice in the deep shade beneath a spruce along the northern edge of the meadow. I know that snow will still fall here during late spring storms, but it will melt quickly. March felt on the cusp, as if it could as easily tip toward winter or spring. Late April is definitely spring headed toward summer. The beaver meadow remains a riverscape more brown and tan than green. The willows are still leafless, although some of the branch tips are turning pale yellow-green and others seem to be taking on a more vivid orange hue. I can see the leaf buds starting to swell. The grass has just begun to grow in dark green tips steadily forcing their way through the thick mat of last year’s dead stems. Clusters of new leaves on low-growing wintergreen are the only other sign of green outside of the channels. Some of the smaller side channels are thick with emerald green algae undulating slowly in the current. A stonefly lands on my hand. Its slender, dark gray body seems surprisingly delicate for a creature that has hatched into the vagaries of April air, with its potential for blasting winds and sudden snow squalls.

Keywords:   Dust Bowl, Estes Park, Glacier National Park, Lily Pond, beaver behavior, connectivity, elk (Cervus elaphus), ground-penetrating radar

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