Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Environmental Sciences and Management


Natural Resources Management


College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences


Seeta Sistla

Advisor Department

Natural Resources Management

Advisor College

College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences


Beaver complexes slow and store water allowing for riparian growth which in turn fosters biodiversity, retains carbon, and enhances resistance to fires and drought. Given the benefits associated with beaver complexes and the potential they have for climate mitigation, California hopes to reintroduce beavers and restore their habitat throughout the state. However, the impact of high peak flow events on beaver complexes and their adjacent riparian corridors is less understood and requires more documentation at various spatial scales. To better understand the potential beavers may have as climate change mitigators it is important to understand beaver complex resiliency following a high peak flow event. This study used remotely sensed mean normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) data, which is a measure of vegetative greenness, to serve as a primary indicator of resilience. Mean NDVI for riparian vegetation was collected in 5 beaver complexes and 5 non-beaver developed sections along the Salinas River in California. Both beaver sites and non-beaver sites were exposed to a multi-month flooding event after enduring several dry years. The term “whiplash weather” can be used to characterize the quick flip from dry conditions to flash floods. Each beaver complex contained multiple dams that were continually maintained by the residing beavers even following the high peak flow months which lasted from December 2022 until March 2023. We hypothesized that with the surge of water, the dams within each of the beaver complexes would fail and the exposure would also cause riparian loss thus revealing a lack of resistance; however, following the flood we assumed that beaver complexes would be able to rebuild their dams and recover back to their steady state implying resilience. We evaluated trends in mean NDVI to assess the influence of flooding, beaver influence, and seasonality on riparian resilience. Our study suggests that beaver complexes are capable of promoting a resilient ecosystem in the face of whiplash weather which is a growing threat in California.