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Professor Diego Riveros-Iregui has received a grant from the National Science Foundation titled “Conceptualizing and quantifying the function of beaver dams and stormwater ponds on the hydrology and biogeochemistry of urban streams.” This is a collaborative grant with Georgia State University (GSU), UNC-Charlotte (UNCC), and Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC). The award totals $598,356 for three years.

Project Overview: Beaver are ubiquitous across the United States, but the impacts of their ponds on flow attenuation and water quality have not been systematically studied in urban environments. Beaver are considered a nuisance species and are often eradicated, yet the in-channel dams they construct may have positive impacts on urban streams such as attenuating flow, enhancing surface water-groundwater connectivity, removing sediment load, and increasing nutrient cycling. These ponds may, in fact, more efficiently achieve some of the water management objectives that motivate human-engineered stormwater retention structures. Understanding the driving controls on flow attenuation and water quality changes by these ponds and comparing them to engineered stormwater ponds is needed for local managers to justify protecting these landscape features. The overarching goal of this work is to develop and test a conceptual model relating and comparing the physical features of urban beaver and stormwater ponds to their observable impacts on streamflow attenuation and water quality.

Broader Impacts: This collaborative project will increase diversity in geosciences, as participating institutions include a minority serving institution (GSU) and a minority serving, primarily undergraduate institution (GGC). In addition, UNC, GSU, and UNCC have undergraduate-to-master’s (4+1) degree programs from which students will be recruited to participate in this research. The multi-institutional project will increase societal awareness of urban beaver through outreach efforts. Many neighbors consider beaver to be a nuisance, and the distribution of our findings to community groups through local presentations and social media outreach will aim to increase understanding of their role in urban hydrology. Our findings will have strong implications for watershed managers in urban environments across the southeastern United States where urban beaver dams are prevalent.

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