Rapid surface-water volume estimations in beaver ponds
Abstract. Beaver ponds are surface-water features that are transient through space and time. Such qualities complicate the inclusion of beaver ponds in local and regional water balances, and in hydrological models, as reliable estimates of surface-water storage are difficult to acquire without time- and labour-intensive topographic surveys. A simpler approach to overcome this challenge is needed, given the abundance of the beaver ponds in North America, Eurasia, and southern South America. We investigated whether simple morphometric characteristics derived from readily available aerial imagery or quickly measured field attributes of beaver ponds can be used to approximate surface-water storage among the range of environmental settings in which beaver ponds are found. Studied were a total of 40 beaver ponds from four different sites in North and South America. The simplified volume–area–depth (V–A–h) approach, originally developed for prairie potholes, was tested. With only two measurements of pond depth and corresponding surface area, this method estimated surface-water storage in beaver ponds within 5 % on average. Beaver pond morphometry was characterized by a median basin coefficient of 0.91, and dam length and pond surface area were strongly correlated with beaver pond storage capacity, regardless of geographic setting. These attributes provide a means for coarsely estimating surface-water storage capacity in beaver ponds. Overall, this research demonstrates that reliable estimates of surface-water storage in beaver ponds only requires simple measurements derived from aerial imagery and/or brief visits to the field. Future research efforts should be directed at incorporating these simple methods into both broader beaver-related tools and catchment-scale hydrological models.