Water can be a fickle friend to ephemeral streams that go dry for part of the year. Water levels can change dramatically over the course of only a couple days. But when the rains come and water levels rise, so do the critters. Chatfield Farms is jam-packed with furry and feathery friends, which we have captured with trap cameras strategically positioned along Deer Creek. Some are shy and cautious…others, like the ducks, are much more outgoing.
A healthy stream helps support high biodiversity of both plants and animals. Riparian zone plants, like our native cottonwoods and willows, are adapted to moist soils and stream overflow into the floodplains they colonize. These trees, along with other riparian plant species, help to stabilize stream banks, reduce erosion and provide vital food and shelter for both aquatic and terrestrial animals.
One of the hardest working (and cutest!) creatures that rely on these riparian plants is the North American beaver (Castor canadensis). These busy little guys are ecosystem engineers, which means they significantly modify their environment and the surrounding area to suit their needs. Beavers use riparian trees to dam up rivers and streams, which slows the water and forms pools and ponds. These new ponds help to keep water within ephemeral river systems for longer than would be possible with precipitation alone. This means that the plants and animals that live within this system have a home and greater supply of resources for a larger part of the year. Chatfield Farms is fortunate to have resident beavers along Deer Creek helping to maintain wetlands and healthy ecosystem functioning.
In areas where the beavers aren’t active, we are conducting restoration activities to help restore healthy riparian areas. This not only boosts stream productivity, but also gives us more time to observe our furry animal friends.
This blog post was written by Meghan McGill, seasonal botanist in the Research & Conservation Department.