Beaver Dam Dimensions and Distribution in Northeastern New Mexico
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The impacts of beaver dams on the geomorphology and ecology of the landscapes on which they are built have grown to become a significant body of literature in recent decades. Additionally, the landscape characteristics most suitable for beaver and dam construction have been modeled, revealing factors important for quality beaver habitat and beaver dam establishment. Beaver dam dimensions, structure, and attributes have not been emphasized in these studies, and little is known about how the landscape influences beaver dam morphology and distribution. The purpose of this study was to examine how beaver dams differ in dimension, structure, and distribution between two New Mexico state parks, then to assess the landscape characteristics spatially associated with these differences. Results indicate that narrow valley widths inhibit beaver dam establishment. High values in stream gradient and sinuosity also appear to inhibit beaver dam establishment. Narrow valley widths, high stream gradients, high sinuosity, and larger upstream catchment areas appear to be most relevant to the incidence of gap flow beaver dams. In particular, beaver dams downstream of narrow valley widths appear to be most vulnerable to breaches. Multithread channels, wider valleys, and low-moderate stream gradients appear advantageous for the establishment of beaver dams. It was difficult to determine patterns related to vegetation and beaver dam establishment, because beavers modify vegetation communities by selective foraging and cutting.