Linking beaver dam affected flow dynamics to upstream passage of Arctic grayling

Kyle A. Cutting, Jake M. Ferguson, Michelle L. Anderson, Kristen Cook, Stacy C. Davis, Rebekah Levine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Beaver reintroductions and beaver dam structures are an increasingly utilized ecological tool for rehabilitating degraded streams, yet beaver dams can potentially impact upstream fish migrations. We collected two years of data on Arctic grayling movement through a series of beaver dams in a low gradient mountain stream, utilizing radio-telemetry techniques, to determine how hydrology, dam characteristics, and fish attributes impeded passage and movement rates of spawning grayling. We compared fish movement between a “normal” flow year and a “low” flow year, determined grayling passage probabilities over dams in relation to a suite of factors, and predicted daily movement rates in relation to the number of dams each fish passed and distance between dams during upstream migration to spawning areas. We found that the average passage probability over unbreached beaver dams was 88%, though we found that it fell below 50% at specific dams. Upstream passage of grayling was affected by three main characteristics: (a) temperature, (b) breach status, and (c) hydrologic linkages that connect sections of stream above and below the dam. Other variables influence passage, but to a lesser degree. Cumulative passage varied with distance upstream and total number of dams passed in low versus normal flow years, while movement rates upstream slowed as fish swam closer to dams. Our findings demonstrate that upstream passage of fish over beaver dams is strongly correlated with hydrologic conditions with moderate controls by dam- and fish-level characteristics. Our results provide a framework that can be applied to reduce barrier effects when and where beaver dams pose a significant threat to the upstream migration of fish populations while maintaining the diverse ecological benefits of beaver activity when dams are not a threat to fish passage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12905-12917
Number of pages13
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • Castor canadensis
  • Thymallus arcticus
  • adaptive management
  • beaver dam
  • biodiversity
  • fish passage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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