They’re Cute. They’re Furry. And They’re the Unsung Heroes of Wildfire Protection Efforts.

From California to Washington, the West Coast is experiencing a fire season unlike any other on record. Since August, climate change-fueled wildfires have scorched more than five million acres across the three states, taking dozens of lives, destroying thousands of buildings, and making the air unbearable for millions of people.

Benjamin Dittbrenner, an associate teaching professor in the Marine and Environmental Sciences department at Northeastern, says wetlands and beavers are an important part of the fire protection puzzle. Beaver ponds and wetlands have been shown to filter out water pollutionsequester carbon, and attenuate floods.

But perhaps a lesser-known fact about the toothy rodents is that they play a key role in creating fireproof shelters for plants and animals. And by building dams, forming ponds, and digging canals, these architects of the natural world irrigate stream corridors that help slow the spread of wildfire.

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Marine and Environmental Sciences