Wildlife Depends On Flowing Rivers | WWF-Canada

Wildlife Depends On Flowing Rivers

© Tessa MACINTOSH / WWF-Canada

Going with the Flow – Protect Healthy Flow for Water Species


Without enough water at critical times of the year, life becomes extremely difficult for freshwater species. Canada’s iconic animals, like salmon and beavers, depend for their survival on the seasonal ebb and flow of water through lakes, rivers and streams. Lesser known species like the coastal tailed frog also depend on healthy streams and waterways.

So when it comes to deciding how much water we can take from a river, we must consider the needs of nature, as well as, people. Here are some ways in which healthy river flow is vital to the wildlife in your part of Canada.

Why Beavers Need Flow

The industrious beaver is one of our country’s most iconic animals. Not just a pretty face on a nickel, the beaver’s brilliant engineering skills have shaped the Canadian landscape.

Beavers depend on healthy river flow for their survival. In fact, it’s the sound of flowing water that triggers them to build or repair their dams.

Slow-moving and vulnerable on land, beavers thrive in an aquatic environment. These hardworking rodents are constantly adapting their environment to meet their need for water. Their dams create deep ponds that provide access to a local food supply, protective living environment and easy transportation.

© Karen Pickett / WWF-Canada
Canada’s beaver are ecosystem engineers that thrive in an aquatic environment.

Why Nature Needs Beavers

Beavers are ecosystem engineers – their dams create aquatic habitat for ducks, fish, otters, muskrats, reptiles, amphibians and plants.

During droughts, beaver dams help preserve wetlands that Canada geese, wood frogs, butterflies and many other species depend on for food and refuge.

Beaver ponds support riparian zones – life at the river’s edge. As water gradually overflows the pond, it seeps into the water table below ground, supporting the growth of trees and plants along the river.

The Coastal Tailed Frog

Deep in the headwaters of British Columbia’s wildest rivers, lives one of the most primitive frog species in the world.

The coastal tailed frog is an ancient survivor. So old that it existed before the world’s continents split apart - making it one of the oldest ancestral lineages of frogs on the planet.

It also lives longer than most other frog species in the world – with a life span of up to 20 years.

Why Frogs need Flow

These ancient amphibians are habitat specialists that have had to adapt to living in a place where water constantly flows. Their homes of choice are fast-flowing, cold mountain streams next to old growth forests.

Tailed frogs cannot produce the slightest ribbit. What’s the point when they’re surrounded by the sound of rushing water? When they want to show their interest in a potential mate, instead of serenading, they release a chemical signal that is carried her way by the water flow.

Coastal frogs also die very quickly if they don’t stay wet because they breathe through their skin. They’ve come to rely on the steady flow of water throughout the temperate rainforest floor to keep them cool and moist.

© Karen Pickett / WWF-Canada
Canada’s coastal tailed frog found in the fast, flowing streams of the Pacific temperate coastal rainforest.

Healthy Flow, Healthy Habitat

When we take more water than a river can give, we affect beavers, tailed frogs and other species that depend on healthy flow.
  • Coastal tailed frogs are very susceptible to habitat loss. Logging close to mountain streams destroys the old growth and thick ground cover that holds pools of water where frogs dwell.
  • Draining marshes for urban or agricultural development threatens beaver dams and habitat.
  • Run of the river hydropower dams in mountain streams can drain water from frog habitat and hinder their migration.

Protect River Flow for Species

  • Avoid large human dam construction that disrupts river flow.
  • Maintain logging buffer zones at the edge of mountain streams.
  • Stop the draining of wetlands which can lead to drought, depriving beavers of water supply.
  • Consider how ecosystems will be affected before removing beaver dams.

Support BC’s new Water Sustainability Act that will help maintain healthy rivers and groundwater

Protect healthy flow in your part of Canada

Protecting Water for Wildlife

British Columbia’s Water
Sustainability Act

WWF-Canada's response to the B.C. Government’s draft proposal for a new Water Sustainability Act for B.C.

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Canada’s waters?

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What You Can Do

Support BC’s new
Water Sustainability Act
that will help maintain healthy rivers and groundwater

Protect healthy flow
in your part of Canada