The effect of beaver ponds on water quality in rural coastal plain streams

Southeastern Naturalist
By: , and 



We compared water-quality effects of 13 beaver ponds on adjacent free-flowing control reaches in the Coastal Plain of rural North Carolina. We measured concentrations of nitrate, ammonium, soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP), and suspended sediment (SS) upstream and downstream of paired ponds and control reaches. Nitrate and SS concentrations decreased, ammonium concentrations increased, and SRP concentrations were unaffected downstream of the ponds and relative to the control reaches. The pond effect on nitrate concentration was a reduction of 112 ± 55 μg-N/L (19%) compared to a control-reach—influenced reduction of 28 ± 17 μg-N/L. The pond effect on ammonium concentration was an increase of 9.47 ± 10.9 μg-N/L (59%) compared to the control-reach—influenced reduction of 1.49 ± 1.37 μg-N/L. The pond effect on SS concentration was a decrease of 3.41 ± 1.68 mg/L (40%) compared to a control-reach—influenced increase of 0.56 ± 0.27 mg/L. Ponds on lower-order streams reduced nitrate concentrations by greater amounts compared to those in higher-order streams. Older ponds reduced SS concentrations by greater amounts compared to younger ponds. The findings of this study indicate that beaver ponds provide water-quality benefits to rural Coastal Plain streams by reducing concentrations of nitrate and suspended sediment.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title The effect of beaver ponds on water quality in rural coastal plain streams
Series title Southeastern Naturalist
DOI 10.1656/058.016.0408
Volume 16
Issue 4
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Eagle Hill Institute
Contributing office(s) Lower Mississippi-Gulf Water Science Center
Description 19 p.
First page 584
Last page 602
Country United States
State North Carolina
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