Natalie Perez, Rhianna Torres, Viviana Celaya, and Dr. Emily Fairfax
Biodiversity refers to the variety of life that is found on the Earth or within an area. Unfortunately, much of the biodiversity in the American West has been lost in the last 250 years. This is magnified in riparian corridors – approximately 80% of terrestrial fauna require access to riparian habitat at some point in their lives, but more than 90% of riparian habitat has been lost or severely degraded. Having high levels of biodiversity in a landscape is associated with a variety of important ecosystem functions, so it makes sense that so many land managers, state and federal agencies, non-profits, and academic institutions are investing considerable time and money into conservation efforts. In riparian corridors specifically, beavers are a keystone species that is well-known for creating and maintaining biodiversity hotspots. Atascadero, California is home to a relatively stable beaver population on the Salinas River. We use camera traps to evaluate the biodiversity of mid- to large-sized fauna in one of these beaver complexes. Game camera footage from 2019-2022 is used to catalogue the diversity of species frequenting the beaver complex. We also note the abundance of juvenile animals as a proxy for the total area of high quality habitat. More animals and more baby animals suggests the habitat is large enough to sustain a growing population. The data from our project will inform riparian management plans on the Salinas River and comparable river systems in the future.