The response of parafluvial soils to beaver mimicry restoration in a Montane stream
Whitehead, Briana Katherine
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Beaver Mimicry Restoration (BMR) is a relatively new aquatic restoration practice that seeks to improve deteriorated stream ecological functions. BMR is designed to rejoin hydrologically disconnected streams with their adjacent floodplains via the installation of small-scale, stream-spanning structures derived from natural materials and inspired by the influence of natural beaver (Castor spp.) dams. These structures capture sediment, elevate stream stage and groundwater tables, create thermal refugia, and re-establish riparian vegetation. Most research on BMR has focused on the hydrological or botanical results, but little is known about the response of parafluvial soils. I report measurements of soil water content, soil temperature, soil biogeochemical reduction, and vegetation responses at paired BMR-influenced treatment and non-BMR-influenced control locations from June through September of 2018 and 2019 in a montane stream in southwestern Montana (USA). In comparison to soils at control sites, soils adjacent to BMR activity experienced an extended period of higher water contents (0.23 m 3/m 3 higher), increased anoxic conditions (on average 27% more during the field season), a less variable and cooler soil temperature range (on average 5 °C cooler), and supported longer durations of vegetation greenness (additional 20 days) during the dry months. Results demonstrate how BMR produces conducive conditions for the development of new and/or the reestablish of historic hydric soils.