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Beaver Lake


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AB
Canada

Beaver Lake


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AB
Canada

1997-98 ungulate monitoring programs: Browse pellet group surveys and winter track counts


Year: 1998

Abstract:
An ungulate monitoring program was designed by Golder Associated Ltd. to assist Suncor Energy Inc. as part of its efforts to assess the impacts of oil sands development and the effectiveness of reclamation efforts. Ungulates (e.g. Moose and deer) were chosen as a study group because they are important economically and traditionally, relatively common in the area, and fairly easy to survey. The ungulate monitoring program consisted of browse pellet group surveys and winter track count surveys. A secondary objective of the monitoring program was to instruct one of Suncor's employees in ungulate monitoring procedures. The browse pellet group surveys were conducted in October 1997 on Waste Area 8, one of Suncor's overburden dump reclamation areas. Although evidence of browse from the current year was scant, it was evident that ungulates utilize the area. The area appeared most heavily use by moose, judging by the browse evidence and the presence of moose pellets or scat. The winter track count surveys were conducted in March 1998 on Waste Area 8, Waste Area 19, Waste Area 16, Waste Area 5, and Shipyard Lake. The majority of tracks within the reclaimed areas were from snowshoe hares, willow ptarmigans and red squirrels. A few coyote tracks were recorded as well. Snowshoe hares appeared to be feeding on willow and trembling aspen shrubs, and on jack pine branches where snow cover was high enough. Old tracks for moose and deer were recorded in Waste Area 19 and Waste Area 16. The majority of tracks recorded at Shipyard Lake were also for snowshoe hares and red squirrels. Other tracks recorded at Shipyard Lake included moose, coyote, weasel, mice and grouse. There was moderate to heavy browse evidence on the red-osier dogwood, a preferred ungulate browse species. Beaver activity was noted in a side channel parallel to the Athabasca River. A great horned owl was heard in the Shipyard Lake area.

A review and assessment of existing information for key wildlife and fish species in the Regional Sustainable Development Strategy study area. Volume 1: Wildlife


Year: 2002

Abstract:
This report summarizes the life history and habitat requirements, distribution and population characteristics (e.g., size and trends) of key wildlife species and communities in the Regional Sustainable Development Strategy (RSDS) study area of northeastern Alberta. A summary of information on key fish species is presented in Volume 2 of this report. Key wildlife included 7 priority #1 species/communities (woodland caribou, moose, muskrat, fisher/small mammal, lynx/snowshoe hare, old growth forest bird community, and Canadian toad) and 8 priority #2 species/communities (black bear, beaver, river otter, ruffed grouse, pileated woodpecker, boreal owl, mixedwood forest bird community, and ducks and geese). Key fish included 2 priority #1 species (northern pike and walleye) and 4 priority #2 species (lake whitefish, Arctic grayling, longnose sucker, and burbot). The information presented in this report is organized into detailed species and community accounts. Data was compiled from numerous sources, including government, industry, university and private/ non-profit organizations. Over 300 published and unpublished reports were reviewed to assimilate the information presented in this report. Habitat/life history requirements for each wildlife species were summarized as general living, foraging, reproducing, protective/thermal cover and migrating/ moving habitat requirements. Habitat elements that characterize moderate-high suitability habitats were also identified based on the results of existing habitat suitability index (HSI) models. Population sizes and trends, as well as the natural variability in population size, were reported where possible. Limited information was available on the population dynamics of most species. Information on population trends was augmented by a discussion of habitat trends within the oil sands area using the results of Cumulative Effects Assessments for various oil sands development projects. Data collected from oil sands projects, as well as other sources, on species sightings/ occurrences and important habitat areas were mapped using GIS. Finally, information gaps pertaining to habitat use, habitat requirements, and population characteristics for each key species/ community were identified.

Alberta First Nation gets anti-oilsands help from U.K. co-op.


Author(s): Pratap, V.

Year: 2009

Abstract:
The community said its members' rights to continue hunting, trapping and fishing for their livelihood were also included in the 1876 treaty, but that these rights will be compromised by the planned oil sands developments.

Beaver Creek: an ecological baseline survey


Year: 1973

Citation:
[Anonymous] (1973).  Beaver Creek: an ecological baseline survey. Environmental Research Monograph 1973-2,

Between the sands and a hard place?: Aboriginal peoples and the oil sands


Author(s): Urquhart, I.

Year: 2010

Abstract:
Canada's aboriginal peoples are one of the constituencies most affected by the oil sands boom that has swept across northeastern North Alberta in western Canada since the mid-1990s. This paper considers reaction of these First Nations to exploring the oil sands. It argues that the conventional view of First Nations' positions is a caricature which pays insignificant attention to the important economic relationships that have developed between oil sands companies and some First Nations. These relationships mean that First Nations are both critics and supporters of exploiting this resources.

Breeding distribution and behaviour of the white pelican in the Athabasca oil sands area


Author(s): Beaver, R., & Ballantyne M.

Year: 1979

Abstract:
Aerial surveys and ground investigations were conducted in the spring and summer months from 1975 to 1977 on a breeding population of White Pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) in the Birch Mountains area of northeastern Alberta. In 1975, an undetermined number of White Pelicans bred at Big Island Lake located approximately 20 km northeast of Namur Lake; however, the sighting of only 12 young during a July aerial survey at that location suggested a small breeding flock. Pelicans did not breed successfully at Namur Lake, a previously occupied nesting location, during the course of this study. In 1976 and 1977, White Pelicans established nesting colonies and bred at a rookery site at Birch Lake, located approximately 10 km south of Namur Lake. Aerial photographs taken at the Birch Lake rookery during the height of the nesting season in late May and early June revealed 140 breeding pairs in 1976 and 70 pairs in 1977. Sixty-eight young were raised to the flying stage in 1976, compared with 55 in 1977, resulting in fledging rates of 0.49 and 0.78 young per nesting attempt in those respective years. Calculated breeding success (number of young raised to the flying stage from estimated total eggs laid) was 22.1 percent in 1976 and 35.7 percent in 1977. In 1976, an estimated eight to 20 nests were lost to rising water levels induced by beaver (Castor canadensis) dams constructed on the outflow channel of Birch Lake. Periodic removal of these dams prevented loss of nests in 1977 to flooding. Mortality during the breeding season included an 11.7 percent loss of eggs and a 19.1 percent loss of young in 1977, the only year for which such data were obtained. White Pelicans bred only on island sites located in permanent water bodies. The birds nested on flat or gently sloping terrain which provided loose substrates for nest mound construction. These substrates varied in composition from loose organic soils to gravel with scattered rock. Density and composition of vegetative cover at nesting locations were also variable, being partly modified by the nesting activity of the birds themselves. Pelicans, which were presumably foraging, were observed on water bodies as far as 69 km from the breeding site. Both adults and young demonstrated varying levels of behavioural responses to disturbances occurring near the rookery. The documentation of these responses and other behaviour is presented in a discussion which considers their implications with respect to the potential effects of development of the Athabasca Oil Sands deposits and the anticipated accelerated recreational use of the Birch Mountains wilderness. Management and reclamation strategies are discussed.

Canadian Aboriginal concerns with oil sands: A compilation of key issues, resolutions and legal activities


Year: 2010

Abstract:
Aboriginal communities have been raising concerns about the impacts of oil sands development on their communities and their legal rights for a number of years. Increasingly, these concerns are manifesting themselves as formal resolutions and legal challenges. This briefing note outlines their key concerns, shares their commentary and provides an overview of resolutions and legal issues.

Cold Lake - Beaver River basin groundwater quality state of the basin report


Year: 2006

Abstract:
This report is one of four State of the Basin reports described below. Each report gives specific information to provide a snapshot that illustrates the current condition of the Cold Lake–Beaver River (CLBR) Basin. The reports contain inventory and assessment information related to surface and groundwater quantity, quality and aquatic resources of the basin. Also identified are the management tools that are currently available to address water issues in the basin. In addition to providing background information and a knowledge base for the CLBR plan, the reports update information in the 1985 planning documents. Developing the State of the Basin reports was a collaborative team effort using expertise from Alberta Environment, Sustainable Resource Development, Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, Prairie Farm Rehabilitation and Administration, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Lakeland Industry and Community Association (LICA).

Cold Lake - Beaver River basin groundwater quantity and brackish water state of the basin report


Year: 2006

Abstract:
This report is one of four State of the Basin reports described below. Each report gives specific information to provide a snapshot that illustrates the current condition of the Cold Lake–Beaver River (CLBR) Basin. The reports contain inventory and assessment information related to surface and groundwater quantity, quality and aquatic resources of the basin. Also identified are the management tools that are currently available to address water issues in the basin. In addition to providing background information and a knowledge base for the CLBR plan, the reports update information in the 1985 planning documents. Developing the State of the Basin reports was a collaborative team effort using expertise from Alberta Environment, Sustainable Resource Development, Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, Prairie Farm Rehabilitation and Administration, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Lakeland Industry and Community Association (LICA).

Cold Lake - Beaver River basin groundwater quantity and brackish water state of the basin report - Appendices


Year: 2006

Abstract:
This appendix highlights and summarizes some of the current legislative statutes, policies and guidelines that influence water management in the CLBR Basin. In addition, information is provided on the inter-provincial agreement between Alberta and Saskatchewan and the Cold Lake Sub-Regional Integrated Resource Plan.

Cold Lake - Beaver River surface water quantity and aquatic resources state of the basin report


Year: 2006

Abstract:
This report is one of four state of the basin reports. Each report gives specific information to provide a snapshot that illustrates the current condition of the Cold Lake-Beaver River (CLBR) Basin. The reports contain inventory and assessment information related to surface and groundwater quantity, quality and aquatic resources of the basin. Also identified are the management tools that are currently available to address water issues in the basin. In addition to providing background information and a knowledge base for the CLBR plan, the reports update information in the 1985 planning documents.

Colin Trindle interview


Author(s): Trindle, C.

Year: 1974

Abstract:
Mr. Trindle, aged 78, has spent most of his adult life in the Trout Lake/Peerless Lake area and is a former chief--talks about promises of a reserve in the area; surveying of boundaries; duration of occupation of area; and traditional lifestyles. Indian History Film Project

Fisheries survey of the Beaver Creek Diversion System, 1978


Author(s): O'Neil, J. P.

Year: 1979

Abstract:
On three occasions during the period May-October, 1978, R.L.& L. Environmental Services Ltd. conducted fish sampling in the Beaver Creek Diversion System. These efforts were oriented towards providing an inventory of postdiversion fish populations. The study was designed not only to update the existing data base, but to provide quantified and reproducible catch/unit effort data (CUE) which could effectively serve as a basis for future monitoring of fish populations. Sampling gear employed in the study included gill nets, beach seine, and back-pack electrofisher. While a total of 11 species were encountered in the study area, only 6 were recorded in the upper diversion system (i.e., upstream of the Poplar Creek dam). Included in this latter group were two species of catostomids (white sucker, longnose sucker), the fathead minnow, brook stickleback, lake chub and spoonhead sculpin (Upper Beaver Creek only). Species collected in Poplar Creek, additional to those recorded in the upper diversion system, were Arctic grayling, northern pike, yellow perch, burbot and troutperch. The spoonhead sculpin was not collected in Poplar Creek. Pertinent life history information was collected for each of the species in the study area and subsequently analysed by computer. This material is provided in a separate data volume. Because of the significance of the white sucker in the diversion system, life history data for this species are presented in this report.

Glacial Lake Agassiz: The northwest outlet and paleoflood spillway, N. W. Saskatchewan and N. E. Alberta


Author(s): Fisher, T. G.

Year: 1993

Abstract:
The Clearwater-lower Athabasca spillway was eroded by a catastrophic flood and extends 233 km from northwestern Saskatchewan into northeast Alberta, ending at the Late Pleistocene Athabasca braid delta, 85 km north of Fort McMurray. At the head of the spillway, an anastomosing complex of erosional channels are separated by streamlined-shaped erosional residual islands (hills). Smaller localized upper scoured zones consisting of channels and erosional residuals are regularly spaced along margins of the spillway. Flood deposits within the spillway are sparse, but are present where the spillway widens or along its upper scoured zones. Representative flood facies consist of (1) boulder lags; (2) poorly sorted boulder gravel; (3) cross-stratified sands and gravels; and, (4) upper flow regime sandy plane beds. The principle depositional feature is the Late Pleistocene Athabasca braid delta which was built into glacial Lake McConnell. Paleohydraulic calculations of the flood from the northwest outlet of glacial Lake Agassiz provide estimates of peak discharges, ranging from 1.2 to $9.1 \times 10\sp6$ m$\sp3$s$\sp{-1}$. The combination of shorelines and glaciolacustrine sediments indicate a lake transgression in the upper Churchill watershed of west-central Saskatchewan. Geomorphic and sedimentological evidence for a transgression, and six radiocarbon ages (average 9869 B.P.) from associated flood deposits strongly supports glacial Lake Agassiz as the source in the upper Churchill river watershed during a high stand of the Emerson high-water phase. Following closure of the eastern outlets at the onset of the Emerson Phase, glacial Lake Agassiz transgressed into the recently deglaciated and isostatically depressed upper Churchill watershed to a present elevation of 490 m at the head of the Clearwater-lower Athabasca spillway, an elevation coincident with the lowest point along the Churchill/Mackenzie drainage divide. The drainage divide consisting of till or the Beaver River moraine, was breached and incised resulting in a lowering of glacial Lake Agassiz by 52 m to a stable elevation of 438 m. In the process, 21,000 km$\sp3$ of water was released to the Arctic Ocean via the Mackenzie River, which raised global sea level by 5.8 cm.

In Conflict


Author(s): Cryderman, K.

Year: 2013

Abstract:
"Any time that we have differences with somebody like [Jim Boucher], it's a cause for concern," he said. "I think he's been a very balanced First Nation leader with respect to the oil sands industry," Mr. [David Collyer] said. "What I would encourage is for all the parties concerned to try to find a constructive way through it."

Citation:

Inventory of selected raptor colonial and sensitive bird species in the Athabasca oil sands area of Alberta


Year: 1980

Abstract:
A three-year inventory of selected rare, endangered and sensitive bird species in the Athabasca Oil Sands area of northeastern Alberta was completed in the late summer of 1977. Aerial and ground surveys of the Alberta Oil Sands Environmental Research Program (AOSERP) study area and selected adjacent areas were conducted. Three major habitat types were investigated: the boreal mixed-wood forest of the Birch Mountains area; the jack pine sandplains south of Lake Athabasca and the Canadian Shield north of Lake Athabasca. Three major groups of birds were surveyed: raptors, colonial birds, and specified sensitive species. Locations of nest sites and colonies were noted and described. No attempt was made to determine the absolute abundance of each species in the AOSERP study area, as the aerial surveillance techniques employed do not justify such an estimation. The exception to this were two species whose total population in the AOSERP study area was restricted to very small areas and therefore could be readily determined: White Pelicans and Peregrine Falcons. Each of these species was investigated in considerable detail and, the data reported in separate publications. Recommendations were made for: 1. Further, more intensive surveys of part of the AOSERP study area in order to determine phenology and numbers of initial breeders more accurately; and 2. Additional surveys of the Canadian Shield area which was incompletely surveyed during this study. Observations of foraging behaviour of a breeding pair of Bald Eagles were conducted in the Birch Mountains, 90 km northwest of Fort McMurray, Alberta, from mid-summer to early fall, 1977. Bald Eagles foraged almost exclusively on fish, although gull wings and a merganser skull were found below nest trees. Nest trees were generally located less than 50 m from water. Active nests were more frequently located on islands and peninsulas. The nest trees were usually tall and broad and included jack pine, spruce, and less frequently trembling aspen. Live trees were preferred over dead trees. In the Birch Mountains, Bald Eagles were relatively sensitive to boat traffic and approaches by humans on foot. Further work is strongly recommended: 1. To further outline critical breeding and foraging habitat criteria; and 2. To assess the potential impact of disturbance on breeding and foraging Bald Eagles.

Lower Athabasca Region groundwater management framework: Supporting document for the Cold Lake - Beaver River (CLBR) area


Year: 2013

Abstract:
The Groundwater Management Framework outlines a strategy for monitoring, evaluation and reporting, sets early warning triggers to indicate changes in groundwater conditions, and identifies management actions that may be taken when such changes are observed.

Lower Athabasca Region groundwater management framework: Supporting document for the South Athabasca Oil Sands (SAOS) area


Year: 2013

Abstract:
This Supporting Document provides summary information about the geology and hydrogeology of the SAOS area, providing a basis for understanding groundwater conditions.

Mammal and bird names in the Indian languages of the Lake Athabasca region


Author(s): Hohn, E. O.

Year: 1973

Abstract:
This article talks about the traditional land area of the Athapaskan speaking Natives (Beaver Indians, Slave Indians, Chipewyans, and Eskimos) and the Algonkian speakers (Cree, and Blackfoot) north, south, east and west of the Lake Athabasca area. Hohn briefly discusses the cultural variation between the Chipewyans and the Crees who currently occupy this area. Although not complete, this article provides a list of the mammal and bird species names and meanings, located in the Lake Athabasca area. This list is provided in the English, Cree, and Chipewyan languages. The author also provides a helpful guide to the pronunciation of these words. Hohn interestingly points out some apparent linguistic connections between some species names. The Cree names were provided by Henry Powder, a long-time resident of Camsell Portage, Saskatchewan (originally from Lac la Biche, Alberta); Solomon Cardinal of Fort Chipewyan, Alberta; and Mrs. A. Anderson of Edmonton (originally from the nearby Calahoo Indian Reserve.) The Chipewyan names were obtained in part from Fr. F. Marcel, former chief of the Chipewyan band at Fort Chipewyan; and George Norm, an elderly Chipewyan or Métis who resides in Little Buffalo River on Great Slave Lake, Northwest Territories. This lends further authenticity to the study.

Patterns of riparian disturbance in Alberta's boreal mixedwood forest: Beavers, roads, and buffers


Author(s): Martell, K. A.

Year: 2004

Abstract:
Road-crossings at streams in Alberta's boreal mixedwood forest may act as human analogues of beaver dams by blocking flow, raising water tables upstream and lowering water tables downstream. I compared riparian vegetation on low-order streams with paired road crossings and beaver dams, to explore the idea that roads form a permanent, human-created beaver dam. My results indicate that water levels are raised upstream of road crossings but extensive interaction between road crossings and beavers confounded my analyses. Detailed field surveys of the beaver dams provided valuable data on beaver habitat use in boreal mixedwood forests. A 50-year chronosequence of air photos suggests that beavers may be the primary disturbance agent structuring riparian zones on low-order streams in the study area. Current forestry operating ground rules in Alberta require 30-60 m unharvested buffer strips on permanent streams but this study showed that beavers could be removing forest cover from entire buffer strips.

Potential impacts of beaver on oil sands reclamation success - an analysis of available literature


Year: 2013

Abstract:
The North American beaver (Castor canadensis) is a large semi-aquatic rodent that has played a central role in shaping the Canadian boreal landscape, and colonial Canadian history. Exploitation of North American beaver populations to supply the European hat industry spurred the westward expansion of European explorers and traders into the continental interior. With intensive unregulated harvest, beavers virtually disappeared across much of their range; though populations are recovering, the species is only about 10% as abundant as it was before the fur trade took its toll. As a result, much of the recent ecological history of the Canadian boreal forest has occurred in the absence of this keystone ecosystem engineer, and the ecological state that we perceive as natural is in many regions quite different than it was a century ago. Beavers, while playing an important role in structuring streams and wetlands by altering vegetation communities and water flow patterns, may also affect human structures. In the mineable oil sands region of northeastern Alberta, much of the landscape will be impacted by mining. Mine sites will have to be reclaimed, and those reclaimed sites will consist of engineered landforms (including water bodies and waterways); the long-term hydrological and ecological function of those sites may be vulnerable to beaver activity. In an effort to determine if approaches exist that could manage the risk of beavers colonizing and negatively impacting reclaimed sites, we performed an extensive literature search and analysis. Our objective was to examine characteristics of beaver ecology that might potentially impact reclamation plans, and to identify possible methods to mitigate those impacts. We also include information on traditional use, historical abundance, and current abundance in the mineable oil sands region to provide important historical and ecological context. Although beavers inhabit a range of aquatic habitats, the focus of our review is on watercourses that could be dammed by beavers. Of the aquatic habitats which will be constructed during reclamation, these systems are probably the most vulnerable to impacts from beaver activity. Note, however, that inlet and outflow streams from lakes may be vulnerable to beaver activity, which could impact the performance of constructed lakes in a variety of ways. Beavers alter stream form and function, create wetlands, and change vegetation patterns. The most important predictor of beaver occurrence is stream gradient, with low gradients being associated with higher beaver activity. Stream depth and width, soil drainage, and stream substrate are also important. Although beavers may also respond to vegetation factors, such as tree or shrub species and density, hydrological factors are more important predictors of beaver occupancy of a site. The primary forage preferred by beavers includes deciduous tree and shrub species. Aspen (Populous tremuloides) is the species most preferred by beaver, and is a common component of reclamation plantings and natural recolonization of reclamation sites in the oil sands region. Beavers are central-place foragers, meaning foraging is concentrated around a central home base. They typically harvest deciduous trees and shrubs up to 60 m or more from the water, but most harvest occurs less than 30 to 40 m from the water’s edge. Predation (and predation risk) restricts the size of beavers’ foraging areas, and may also regulate their population size. Management of wolf populations to limit predation on caribou in northeastern Alberta may have significant indirect effects on beaver abundance and distribution by releasing them from predation pressure. The boreal forest ecosystem of Canada evolved over millennia with the beaver as a keystone species altering hydrological systems, creating vast areas of wetlands and beaver meadows, changing vegetation communities and modifying geomorphological processes. Reclamation of functional ecosystems in the region must therefore integrate beavers and their engineered structures. The most ecologically- and cost-effective approach is to design reclaimed areas with the objective of including beaver, but directing beaver activity to areas away from vulnerable reclamation structures. Ecological function requires the presence of beaver on the post-reclamation landscape, and the species is important to First Nations peoples and other trappers in the area. Although beaver abundance can be expected to increase in the area after reclamation, their activities will result in the replacement of existing vegetation with species of lower nutritional quality to beaver (conifer trees). This is expected to result in a beaver population decline and then stabilization over time. With beavers an integral component of the functional landscape, it is important to create “beaver exclusion zones” to ensure that the impact of the species is diverted to areas where beaver activity does not damage reclamation structures. There are very few existing studies of beaver impacts to reclaimed areas. Incorporating ecologically-based strategies for keeping beaver density low in sensitive areas at the outset of a reclamation project, and then monitoring the effectiveness of that strategy, is the best advice that can be derived from our analysis of the existing literature. Beavers could be discouraged from settling at a site by creating streams with steep gradients (>10%) that are wide and deep enough to ensure substantial water flows, are armoured with rock or cobble bottoms, and are bordered by coniferous tree species and/or grass and sedge species. Trees should be planted at high density to prevent growth of shrubs and deciduous trees in the understory, as these are preferred by beaver. Deciduous vegetation should not be planted during reclamation near sites where beavers are to be excluded, and it may be necessary to remove existing deciduous trees and shrubs and replace them with conifers, grasses and sedges in these areas. Although planting specific types of vegetation may be used to discourage beavers from settling a certain area in the short term, natural succession could eventually result in other vegetation communities attractive to beavers. Therefore, unless long-term vegetation management is envisioned, reclamation plans should not rely on using vegetation to dissuade beaver activity in sensitive areas alone, though this approach may be used in combination with other methods, especially in the few decades immediately following reclamation. Note that the goal is to plan for a maintenance-free environment in which ongoing beaver control is unnecessary, and the use of multiple strategies in tandem to guide beaver activity is more likely to achieve this goal. More active, maintenance-intensive techniques could be used to limit the damage caused by beaver dams to sensitive areas. These techniques include lethal (e.g., kill trapping or shooting) and nonlethal (e.g., relocation) methods to reduce population density. However, these methods require constant effort, and can be expensive. Another approach is to manipulate water flow through existing beaver dams using pipe drainage systems; this allows the beaver dam to stay in place, while reducing the risk that it will trap enough water to be dangerous if the dam should fail. Again, however, these drainage systems require long-term maintenance. One approach may be more sustainable in the long term and require less maintenance: minimize or maximize water flow through engineered channels, as beavers are less likely to use very low-flow and very high-flow watercourses. Note that beavers may still affect these channels, especially when population densities are high or other habitat is unavailable; however, the probability of beavers affecting very low-flow or high-flow channels is lower than for watercourses with more moderate flows. Creating several dispersed low-flow channels may make an area less desirable to beavers compared to a single moderate flow channel. Similarly, multiple low- to moderate-flow channels could be created, with some having characteristics that attract beavers (“decoys”) and others that do not (“exclusions”), allowing water flow to continue through some channels even in the presence of beavers. “Pre-dam” fences can be installed on decoy streams to create a structure to encourage beavers to occupy a site where damage is not a concern. Discharge could be controlled by regulating water flow through exclusion streams that are not dammed, or by installing flow devices though dams on decoy streams. A similar approach might be used on culverts that allow streams to flow beneath roadways; flow devices could be used proactively at these sites, and/or oversized culverts could be installed to allow maintenance of the natural width of the stream channel and reduce the noise of running water, which attracts beaver activity. Although many different landforms on the reclaimed landscape may be vulnerable to beaver activity, a few are considered critical areas where beaver impacts must be controlled, including the outlets of lakes, side-hill drainage systems, and constructed peatlands. Beaver activity at the outlet of constructed lakes could cause instability in containment structures, negatively affect littoral and riparian zones around the lake, and increase the probability of catastrophic outburst flooding. Damming of side-hill drainage systems could cause stream avulsion and routing of water flow into a new pathway not engineered for a stream, causing increased erosion. Flooding of constructed peatlands could convert them to open-water systems, thereby subverting their intended ecological function. These critical areas should be protected from beaver activities, while other areas should be designed to accommodate this important species. In practice, several different approaches – tailored to specific situations and landforms – will be necessary to develop and implement plans that accommodate beavers as a part of the post-reclamation landscape. As so few data exist to inform effective reclamation in the presence of beavers, all of the methods we suggest carry an unknown degree of risk. This risk can be decreased in the future by adapting methods based on observed effectiveness. We recommend implementing a research and adaptive management program on the influence of beavers on reclamation within the context of oil sands reclamation in northeast Alberta. Lack of existing information, particularly in northeast Alberta, illustrates the need to implement research that documents the positive and negative influence of beavers on reclamation sites and tests alternative methods to prevent negative and support positive influences. Otherwise reclamation strategies will be ad-hoc and tenuous, with a mixed success rate. A research and monitoring program would ideally contribute to a standardized strategic approach to mitigating negative beaver influences on reclamation of watercourses in the oil sands region. Beavers are, to a certain extent, unpredictable. No single approach will guarantee that a site will be unaffected by beaver activity. We suggest that multiple management approaches be simultaneously implemented at sites that are particularly vulnerable or critical for the functioning of the reclaimed landscape (e.g., outlet streams from constructed lakes). It is impossible to predict all eventualities, as the character of the reclaimed landscape will change over time due to successional processes, fire, global climate change, and resource extraction. The information we provide is the best available based on limited current knowledge, and provides the best chance for minimizing risk while accommodating this keystone species. Ultimately, the presence of beavers on reclaimed oil sands leases will increase biodiversity, enhance ecosystem goods and services, and assist in developing ecosystems that are consistent with natural systems in the boreal region.

Potential impacts of beaver on oil sands reclamation success–an analysis of available literature


Year: 2013

Abstract:
The North American beaver (Castor canadensis) is a large semi-aquatic rodent that has played acentral role in shaping the Canadian boreal landscape, and colonial Canadian history. Exploitation of North American beaver populations to supply the European hat industry spurred the westward expansion of European explorers and traders into the continental interior. With intensive unregulated harvest, beavers virtually disappeared across much of their range; though populations are recovering, the species is only about 10% as abundant as it was before the furtrade took its toll. As a result, much of the recent ecological history of the Canadian boreal forest has occurred in the absence of this keystone ecosystem engineer, and the ecological state that we perceive as natural is in many regions quite different than it was a century ago. Beavers, while playing an important role in structuring streams and wetlands by altering vegetation communities and water flow patterns, may also affect human structures. In the mineable oil sands region of northeastern Alberta, much of the landscape will be impacted by mining. Mine sites will have to be reclaimed, and those reclaimed sites will consist of engineered landforms (including water bodies and waterways); the long-term hydrological and ecological function of those sites may be vulnerable to beaver activity. In an effort to determine if approaches exist that could manage the risk of beavers colonizing and negatively impactingreclaimed sites, we performed an extensive literature search and analysis. Our objective was to examine characteristics of beaver ecology that might potentially impact reclamation plans, and to identify possible methods to mitigate those impacts. We also include information on traditional use, historical abundance, and current abundance in the mineable oil sands region to provide important historical and ecological context. Although beavers inhabit a range of aquatic habitats,the focus of our review is on watercourses that could be dammed by beavers. Of the aquatic habitats which will be constructed during reclamation, these systems are probably the most vulnerable to impacts from beaver activity. Note, however, that inlet and outflow streams fromlakes may be vulnerable to beaver activity, which could impact the performance of constructed lakes in a variety of ways. Beavers alter stream form and function, create wetlands, and change vegetation patterns. The most important predictor of beaver occurrence is stream gradient, with low gradients being associated with higher beaver activity. Stream depth and width, soil drainage, and stream substrate are also important. Although beavers may also respond to vegetation factors, such astree or shrub species and density, hydrological factors are more important predictors of beaver occupancy of a site.The primary forage preferred by beavers includes deciduous tree and shrub species. Aspen(Populous tremuloides) is the species most preferred by beaver, and is a common component of reclamation plantings and natural recolonization of reclamation sites in the oil sands region. Beavers are central-place foragers, meaning foraging is concentrated around a central home base. They typically harvest deciduous trees and shrubs up to 60 m or more from the water, but mostharvest occurs less than 30 to 40 m from the water’s edge. Predation (and predation risk) restricts the size of beavers’ foraging areas, and may also regulate their population size. Management of wolf populations to limit predation on caribou in northeastern Alberta may have significant indirect effects on beaver abundance and distribution by releasing them frompredation pressure.The boreal forest ecosystem of Canada evolved over millennia with the beaver as a keystone species altering hydrological systems, creating vast areas of wetlands and beaver meadows,changing vegetation communities and modifying geomorphological processes. Reclamation offunctional ecosystems in the region must therefore integrate beavers and their engineered structures. The most ecologically- and cost-effective approach is to design reclaimed areas withthe objective of including beaver, but directing beaver activity to areas away from vulnerablereclamation structures. Ecological function requires the presence of beaver on the post-reclamation landscape, and the species is important to First Nations peoples and other trappers in the area. Although beaver abundance can be expected to increase in the area after reclamation, their activities will result in the replacement of existing vegetation with species of lower nutritional quality to beaver (conifer trees). This is expected to result in a beaver population decline and then stabilization over time. With beavers an integral component of the functional landscape, it is important to create “beaver exclusion zones” to ensure that the impact of thespecies is diverted to areas where beaver activity does not damage reclamation structures.There are very few existing studies of beaver impacts to reclaimed areas. Incorporating ecologically-based strategies for keeping beaver density low in sensitive areas at the outset of a reclamation project, and then monitoring the effectiveness of that strategy, is the best advice thatcan be derived from our analysis of the existing literature. Beavers could be discouraged from settling at a site by creating streams with steep gradients (>10%) that are wide and deep enoughto ensure substantial water flows, are armoured with rock or cobble bottoms, and are bordered byconiferous tree species and/or grass and sedge species. Trees should be planted at high density to prevent growth of shrubs and deciduous trees in the understory, as these are preferred by beaver. Deciduous vegetation should not be planted during reclamation near sites where beavers are to be excluded, and it may be necessary to remove existing deciduous trees and shrubs and replace them with conifers, grasses and sedges in these areas. Although planting specific typesof vegetation may be used to discourage beavers from settling a certain area in the short term,natural succession could eventually result in other vegetation communities attractive to beavers. Therefore, unless long-term vegetation management is envisioned, reclamation plans should notrely on using vegetation to dissuade beaver activity in sensitive areas alone, though this approachmay be used in combination with other methods, especially in the few decades immediately following reclamation. Note that the goal is to plan for a maintenance-free environment in whichongoing beaver control is unnecessary, and the use of multiple strategies in tandem to guidebeaver activity is more likely to achieve this goal. More active, maintenance-intensive techniques could be used to limit the damage caused bybeaver dams to sensitive areas. These techniques include lethal (e.g., kill trapping or shooting)and nonlethal (e.g., relocation) methods to reduce population density. However, these methodsrequire constant effort, and can be expensive. Another approach is to manipulate water flowthrough existing beaver dams using pipe drainage systems; this allows the beaver dam to stay in place, while reducing the risk that it will trap enough water to be dangerous if the dam shouldfail. Again, however, these drainage systems require long-term maintenance.One approach may be more sustainable in the long term and require less maintenance: minimize or maximize water flow through engineered channels, as beavers are less likely to use very low-flow and very high-flow watercourses. Note that beavers may still affect these channels,especially when population densities are high or other habitat is unavailable; however, the probability of beavers affecting very low-flow or high-flow channels is lower than forwatercourses with more moderate flows. Creating several dispersed low-flow channels maymake an area less desirable to beavers compared to a single moderate flow channel. Similarly, multiple low- to moderate-flow channels could be created, with some having characteristics thatattract beavers (“decoys”) and others that do not (“exclusions”), allowing water flow to continuethrough some channels even in the presence of beavers. “Pre-dam” fences can be installed ondecoy streams to create a structure to encourage beavers to occupy a site where damage is not aconcern. Discharge could be controlled by regulating water flow through exclusion streams that are not dammed, or by installing flow devices though dams on decoy streams. A similar approach might be used on culverts that allow streams to flow beneath roadways; flow devices could be used proactively at these sites, and/or oversized culverts could be installed to allowmaintenance of the natural width of the stream channel and reduce the noise of running water,which attracts beaver activity.Although many different landforms on the reclaimed landscape may be vulnerable to beaver activity, a few are considered critical areas where beaver impacts must be controlled, includingthe outlets of lakes, side-hill drainage systems, and constructed peatlands. Beaver activity at the outlet of constructed lakes could cause instability in containment structures, negatively affectlittoral and riparian zones around the lake, and increase the probability of catastrophic outburstflooding. Damming of side-hill drainage systems could cause stream avulsion and routing ofwater flow into a new pathway not engineered for a stream, causing increased erosion. Floodingof constructed peatlands could convert them to open-water systems, thereby subverting theirintended ecological function. These critical areas should be protected from beaver activities,while other areas should be designed to accommodate this important species.In practice, several different approaches – tailored to specific situations and landforms – will benecessary to develop and implement plans that accommodate beavers as a part of the post-reclamation landscape. As so few data exist to inform effective reclamation in the presence ofbeavers, all of the methods we suggest carry an unknown degree of risk. This risk can bedecreased in the future by adapting methods based on observed effectiveness. We recommend implementing a research and adaptive management program on the influence of beavers onreclamation within the context of oil sands reclamation in northeast Alberta. Lack of existing information, particularly in northeast Alberta, illustrates the need to implement research thatdocuments the positive and negative influence of beavers on reclamation sites and testsalternative methods to prevent negative and support positive influences. Otherwise reclamationstrategies will be ad-hoc and tenuous, with a mixed success rate. A research and monitoring program would ideally contribute to a standardized strategic approach to mitigating negativebeaver influences on reclamation of watercourses in the oil sands region. Beavers are, to a certain extent, unpredictable. No single approach will guarantee that a site willbe unaffected by beaver activity. We suggest that multiple management approaches besimultaneously implemented at sites that are particularly vulnerable or critical for the functioning of the reclaimed landscape (e.g., outlet streams from constructed lakes). It is impossible topredict all eventualities, as the character of the reclaimed landscape will change over time due tosuccessional processes, fire, global climate change, and resource extraction. The information weprovide is the best available based on limited current knowledge, and provides the best chancefor minimizing risk while accommodating this keystone species. Ultimately, the presence of beavers on reclaimed oil sands leases will increase biodiversity, enhance ecosystem goods andservices, and assist in developing ecosystems that are consistent with natural systems in the boreal region.