#35: Ben Goldfarb – Eager Beavers, The Quintessential Keystone Species

#35: Ben Goldfarb – Beavers, The Quintessential Keystone Species Nature's Archive


Today you’ll become a Beaver Believer thanks to my guest, Ben Goldfarb. Ben is the author of the book Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter, winner of the 2019 PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award. Aside from being an author, Ben is an environmental journalist, with writing appearing in The Atlantic, Science, The Washington Post, and many other esteemed publications. Ben holds a Masters of Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Beavers truly are ecosystem engineers, capable of creating a series of habitats just by living their semi-aquatic lives. But did you know that not all beavers build dams and lodges? And in order to spend so much time in water, they have many amazing adaptations, such a a second set of lips behind their teeth that acts like a valve sealing off water.

American Beaver, photo by Steve from Washington, DC, usa, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

And this is just the tip of the beaver lodge, so to speak. Ben tells us so many great facts about beavers and their ecology that I’m sure you’ll walk away with an expanded respect for these animals. Ben tells us why beavers are perhaps the quintessential keystone species, creating a disproportionate impact on the land. For example, beavers may actually help salmon populations, reduce and slow wildfires, recharge groundwater supplies, and much more. They create ponds, dig creek channels, and trigger ecological succession. We also discuss how beavers fit into the classic Yellowstone trophic cascade. Maybe I could have had a shorter interview if I just asked Ben what beavers don’t do?

Find Ben on his website, or on twitter.

Did you have a question that I didn’t ask? Let me know at naturesarchivepodcast@gmail.com, and I’ll try to get an answer! I’ll add these Q&As to my monthly newsletter, so if you aren’t already subscribed, go here. I promise, no spam. I share the latest news from the world of Nature’s Archive, as well as pointers to new naturalist finds that have crossed my radar, like podcasts, books, websites, and more.

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People and Organizations

Emily Fairfax, PhD – Ecohydrologist who has researched how beavers make landscapes more fire resilient

Joe Wheaton – Fluvial Geomorphologist who has studied how beavers are restorative, and can be used like a restoration tool.

Sarah Koenigsberg – filmmaker for The Beaver Believers

Books and Other Things

Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter – by Ben Goldfarb

Note: links to books are affiliate links

Music Credits

Opening – Fearless First by Kevin MacLoed

Closing – Beauty Flow by Kevin MacLoed

Both can be obtained from https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/

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