An Experimental Investigation of the Hydraulics and Pollutant Dispersion Characteristics of a Model Beaver Dam

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Beavers have influenced the world’s ecosystem for millions of years. Their dams create ponds and wetlands that provide a large range of hydraulic and ecological benefits to the natural world, including mitigation against flooding and improving water quality. As beavers are now being reintroduced to many parts of the world, it is important to fully understand the impact of their dams on the flow characteristics of the water-courses on which they are built. This paper investigates the relationship between the physical properties of a model beaver dam and its fundamental hydraulics and pollutant dispersion characteristics. The first objective of this paper was to develop a modelling framework to relate discharge to flow-depth for dams with a combination of porous and impermeable sections. The second objective was to utilize a similar framework to predict the down-stream concentration distribution of an up-stream pollution event passing through such systems. The ability to model these parameters for dams with variable lengths of porous and impermeable sections is important as the porosity of beaver dams can vary with depth, depending on which sections are constructed from branches, rocks, or compacted mud. The analysis and modelling developed in this paper show that a single, general relationship can be obtained between discharge and flow-depth regardless of the presence of sections that are both porous or impermeable, provided the relative depths of these sections are known and accounted for. It is also shown that the Nominal Residence Time and the Advection Dispersion Equation can be used to predict pollutant transport in such systems. These two equations have previously been shown to have limitations when applied to some complex systems, so demonstrating they can be applied to a porous dam with combinations of porous and impermeable sections at the relative discharges investigated is noteworthy.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2320
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 19 Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


  • ecosystem engineering
  • water quality
  • water storage
  • beaver dam
  • pollutant transport
  • longitudinal dispersion
  • residence time


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