A megafire is a fire that burns more than 100,000 acres. From wikipedia, these fires form pyrocumulus and pyro cumulonimbus, clouds which are also named “fire-breathing dragons”. These are clouds that rain down fire, lightning, hail and sometimes even tornadoes, further spreading the megafire.
These are fires that create their own weather.
Dr. Emily Fairfax has been studying beaver complexes and forest fires. She published a paper titled Smokey the Beaver: beaver-dammed riparian corridors stay green during wildfire throughout the western United States. She learned that beaver-dammed riparian areas burn 3 times less than riparian areas that are without beavers. She has shared striking photos of river bottoms burned to charcoal in areas where the beavers weren’t, right alongside areas that were green, vibrant and alive where the beavers had maintained a series of dams that were completely unharmed by the wildfire.
You may have seen her 45 second stop-motion video on beavers and fire:
But what about beavers and megafires?
Can a rodent still provide benefits when the fires are creating their own weather?
Luckily, Dr. Emily Fairfax is studying that, too. She recently presented her findings in June 2022 at Beavercon, an international conference that brings together beaver professionals of all kinds. You can see her 30 minute presentation here (and I highly recommend it).
And for those with a short attention span, the answer is yes, beaver-dammed riparian areas significantly help, even during megafires. But if you want the numbers to know exactly how much they help, and it’s a lot, watch the presentation.