BRAT is a tool for imaging what is possible. At the heart of this is a capacity model that models the capacity of riverscapes to support dam-building activity by beaver. As Ben Goldfarb, in this book Eager, The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter elegantly states, “Although BRAT’s primary value is technical, it is, too, an achievement of the imagination, a method for visualizing the magnificently ponded world that predated European trapping — a time machine to the Castorocene”.
The BRAT capacity model outputs ‘paint’ a vision of what watersheds once were, and what they could be if beaver were allowed to return. BRAT provides a vision for what is possible and how partnering with beaver can help increase the resilience of watersheds to drought, fire, and climate change.
What transforms BRAT from a capacity model to an assessment tool is its ability to model: 1) potential risk areas, 2) unsuitable or limited dam building opportunities, and 3) conservation and restoration opportunities. As such, the BRAT model identifies where streams are relative to human infrastructure and high intensity land use, and conservatively shows how that aligns with where beaver could build dams.
The BRAT model helps build realistic expectations about what beaver dam-building may achieve locally on a given stream, and also helps scale-up those expectations at the watershed level. BRAT model outputs can be used to initialize restoration and conservation planning and can also support initial conceptual design and siting of specific restoration actions. BRAT model outputs can also aid with expectation management, and conservation and restoration prioritization.
BRAT As A Restoration Planning Tool
BRAT and its sister R-CAT, can be used to plan and prioritize restoration projects as explained in the video below:
Future BRAT Tools
BRAT currently consists of an ArcGIS Toolbox. However, we think BRAT could be more useful to managers, restoration practitioners and researchers if we could deploy it in three different platforms:
- An WebGIS application that would allow users to:
- Explore and visualize BRAT runs for the Western US in a Google Maps interface
- Run and produce simple BRAT scenarios
- Export BRAT outputs as KML or shapefiles
- An ArcGIS AddIn with Project Explorer (like GCD) to make it easier for modelers to run BRAT
- A stand-alone GUI application (without mapping functionality)
See here for more information on BRAT as a tool.
Implementing the Vision
We are actively pursuing funding opportunities to enable us to develop the above tools and disseminate them widely. If you or your organization would benefit from these tools, please feel free to contact us to discuss collaborative opportunities.