A Keystone what? That isn’t important to me …..

Actually Keystone species ARE quite important to all of us.

The beaver is one of the most interesting to me. I heard a very funny story yesterday ………

The gist is that a property owner was sent a complaint by his local governmental body indicating many negative effects after the dam broke loose on his property.

The funny part was the owner’s response telling off  said governmental body and going on to say that the Beaver’s who created the dam would likely take offense to claims that it is was poorly built, was unsafe and harming the environment, in addition the beavers are destitute so if this was pursued they would have to provide a lawyer. 

How many people around actually know that Beavers are a Keystone species? Clearly NOT the  government body!

You might be asking yourself “what is a keystone species really?”

The term keystone species was first coined by Robert Paine (1966) after extensive studies examining the interaction strengths of food webs….. “A keystone species exerts top-down influence on lower trophic levels and prevents species at lower trophic levels from monopolizing critical resources, such as competition for space or key producer food sources”.

Essentially the Beaver (doing what it naturally does) effects it’s environment not only for the betterment of it’s species but the others around it. In fact, it often creates an enormous amount of diversity in the area of the dam.

Paine goes on to say:  “Keystone modifiers, such as the North American beaver (Casor candensis), determine the prevalence and activities of many other species by dramatically altering the environment”.


photo by Alan Cressler

Baby beaver on the go Flbeaverdam (baby beaver a few days old)

Why does this matter?

When Beaver’s build their dams they help slow down water using it to it’s fullest potential before it travels on.

(For all you permies out there THIS is what we aspire to right!!)

~ The biodiversity in the dam area increases exponentially.

~ It creates a slow water environment perfect as a safe nursery for many fish and other aquatic organisms.

~ Helps provide a safe place for rare species (it is said that 50% of them require a wetlands environment during some part of their life cycle).

~ Beaver dams act as a natural filtration to our water, reducing cost, improving water quality & aquatic conditions downstream.

~ Helps avoid droughts upstream (and control flooding downstream) as the weather swings from flood to drought get larger

~ Create fishery areas for wildlife and humans

~ Increased wildlife habitat

~ Erosion control

~ Photo opportunities

And so much more ….

Again you may be asking Why does this matter?

The more biodiversity in nature, the closer we are to a healthy plentiful system, in which humans (also a Keystone species) live harmoniously among all the other beings on this planet we call Earth.

And THAT is something to truly strive for!

May you know the SPiCE in life!



Reference material:





How funny – I tripped over what appears to be the actual beaver dam dispute while looking for a suitable picture ! The full story here:  http://ssqq.com/archive/vinlin20.htm


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