New research shows that these ecosystem engineers can be an ally in stopping the decline of biodiversity.

Researchers in Poland have found another reason to love beavers: They benefit wintering birds.

The rodents, once maligned as destructive pests, have been getting a lot of positive press lately. And for good reason. Beavers are ecosystem engineers. As they gather trees and dam waterways, they create wetlands, increase soil moisture, and allow more light to reach the ground. That drives the growth of herbaceous and shrubby vegetation, which benefits numerous animals.

Bats, who enjoy the buffet of insects found along beaver ponds, are among the beneficiaries. So too are butterflies who come for the diversity of flowering plants in the meadows beavers create.

Some previous research has found that this helping hand also extends to birds. For example, a 2008 study in the western United States showed that the vegetation that grows along beaver-influenced streams provided needed habitat for migratory songbirds, many of whom are in decline.

The new study published in the journal Forest Ecology and Management found further evidence by focusing on birds in winter. The researchers looked at assemblages of wintering birds on 65 beaver sites and 65 reference sites in a range of temperate forest habitat across Poland. Winter can be a challenging time for birds in that environment, as they need to reduce energy expenditures in the cold weather and find habitat that has high-quality food and roosting sites.

Wintering birds, it turns out, find those qualities near beaver habitat.

Read this article in The Revelator