Dandy Designs title

Ocean's Beavers

Here in the North we know that beavers transform the wilderness in wonderful ways, providing habitat for fish, birds, and storing water that sustains the whole ecosystem during dry months. Many areas of Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Minnesota are stocking beaver because of the environmental benefits that they bring to large wilderness areas.

Florida State University’s Felicia Coleman and Elliott Norse of the Marine Conservation Biology Institute have been doing studies of the red grouper in ocean areas around Florida and throughout the Gulf of Mexico. They have discovered that the red grouper serves the ocean in the same way that beavers serve the northern wilderness.

The grouper digs large holes in the ocean’s sandy bottom exposing rocky surfaces at the bottom of the holes. These holes and rocky surfaces that are exposed are protected by the grouper’s activity and provide a place for coral, seaweed, sponges, and other marine life to start, thrive, and congregate. When granular charcoal was added to the holes the fish were maintaining, they took the charcoal away and scattered it elsewhere. The holes are cleaned and maintained by this beaver-like fish. Research has shown that when red groupers are fished out of an area, the area becomes an underwater desert — barren of other forms of sea life as well. Just as the beaver maintains its environment, the red grouper is a tool that engineers and maintains the floor of the ocean to allow the whole ecosystem to function.

Thomas Bigford, chief of NOAA fisheries’ Habitat Protection Division says, “We’re learning that engineering happens at all sorts of different scales, at all sorts of different levels. It changes the way we do things. It changes what we think of as protected habitat.” The engineering that we see in nature reflects the wisdom and design of God. He has designed animals that can manage and sustain environments that otherwise would be hostile to life. These animals do this in such a way that barren areas become life-giving oasis, whether on land or under the surface of the ocean.

Source: The Open Fish Science Journal, January 2010.


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