Campbell-Palmer, R., Gow, D., Campbell, R., Dickinson, H., Girling, S., Gurnell, J., Halley, D., Jones, S., Lisle, S., Parker, H., Schwab, G. & Rosell, F. (2016). The Eurasian Beaver Handbook: Ecology and Management of Castor fiber. Exeter: Pelagic Publishing, UK.
Book of Abstracts
- 6th International Beaver Symposium (2012), held in Ivanic-Grad Croatia from 17-20 September 2012 (pdf).
- Busher, P. & Dzieciolowski, R. (1999) Beaver Protection, Management, and Utilisation in Europe and North America. Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, New York.
- Coles, B. (2006) Beavers in Britain’s Past. Oxbow Books, Oxford, UK.
- Kitchener, A. & Pollitt, R.(2001) Beavers. Whittet Books Ltd.
- Morgan, L, (1986) The American beaver: A classic of Natural History and Ecology. Dover Publications, New York.
- Müller-Schwarze, D. (2011) The Beaver: Its Life and Impact (2nd Edit.). Cornell University press.
- Müller-Schwarze, D. & Sun, L. (2003) The Beaver: Natural History of a Wetlands Engineer. Cornell University Press.
- Sjoberg, G. & Ball, J. (2011) Restoring the European Beaver: 50 Years of Experience Pensoft Publishers.
- Yalden, D., (1999) The Histroy of British Mammals. T. & A.D. Poysner Ltd., London.
- Olson, R., Hubert, W. & Brown, D. (1994) Beaver Ecology and Management In North America: A Bibliography Of Prominent Literature. University of Wyoming, Laramie.
Articles and Reports
- Devon Wildlife Trust. (2017). Beavers – Nature’s Water Engineers: A summary of initial findings from the Devon Beaver Projects. Retrieved from http://www.devonwildlifetrust.org/sites/default/files/files/Beaver%20Project%20update%20(LowRes)%20.pdf.
- Law, A., Gaywood, M. J., Jones, K. C., Ramsay, P., & Willby, N. J. (2017). Using ecosystem engineers as tools in habitat restoration and rewilding: beaver and wetlands. Science of The Total Environment, 605-606 (Supplement C), 1021-1030. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.06.173
Abstract: Potential for habitat restoration is increasingly used as an argument for reintroducing ecosystem engineers. Beaver have well known effects on hydromorphology through dam construction, but their scope to restore wetland biodiversity in areas degraded by agriculture is largely inferred. Our study presents the first formal monitoring of a planned beaver-assisted restoration, focussing on changes in vegetation over 12years within an agriculturally-degraded fen following beaver release, based on repeated sampling of fixed plots. Effects are compared to ungrazed exclosures which allowed the wider influence of waterlogging to be separated from disturbance through tree felling and herbivory. After 12years of beaver presence mean plant species richness had increased on average by 46% per plot, whilst the cumulative number of species recorded increased on average by 148%. Heterogeneity, measured by dissimilarity of plot composition, increased on average by 71%. Plants associated with high moisture and light conditions increased significantly in coverage, whereas species indicative of high nitrogen decreased. Areas exposed to both grazing and waterlogging generally showed the most pronounced change in composition, with effects of grazing seemingly additive, but secondary, to those of waterlogging. Our study illustrates that a well-known ecosystem engineer, the beaver, can with time transform agricultural land into a comparatively species-rich and heterogeneous wetland environment, thus meeting common restoration objectives. This offers a passive but innovative solution to the problems of wetland habitat loss that complements the value of beavers for water or sediment storage and flow attenuation. The role of larger herbivores has been significantly overlooked in our understanding of freshwater ecosystem function; the use of such species may yet emerge as the missing ingredient in successful restoration.
- Macfarlane, W. W., Wheaton, J. M., Bouwes, N., Jensen, M. L., Gilbert, J. T., Hough-Snee, N., & Shivik, J. A. (2017). Modeling the capacity of riverscapes to support beaver dams. Geomorphology, 277 (Supplement C), 72-99. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geomorph.2015.11.019
Abstract: The construction of beaver dams facilitates a suite of hydrologic, hydraulic, geomorphic, and ecological feedbacks that increase stream complexity and channel–floodplain connectivity that benefit aquatic and terrestrial biota. Depending on where beaver build dams within a drainage network, they impact lateral and longitudinal connectivity by introducing roughness elements that fundamentally change the timing, delivery, and storage of water, sediment, nutrients, and organic matter. While the local effects of beaver dams on streams are well understood, broader coverage network models that predict where beaver dams can be built and highlight their impacts on connectivity across diverse drainage networks are lacking. Here we present a capacity model to assess the limits of riverscapes to support dam-building activities by beaver across physiographically diverse landscapes. We estimated dam capacity with freely and nationally-available inputs to evaluate seven lines of evidence: (1) reliable water source, (2) riparian vegetation conducive to foraging and dam building, (3) vegetation within 100m of edge of stream to support expansion of dam complexes and maintain large colonies, (4) likelihood that channel-spanning dams could be built during low flows, (5) the likelihood that a beaver dam is likely to withstand typical floods, (6) a suitable stream gradient that is neither too low to limit dam density nor too high to preclude the building or persistence of dams, and (7) a suitable river that is not too large to restrict dam building or persistence. Fuzzy inference systems were used to combine these controlling factors in a framework that explicitly also accounts for model uncertainty. The model was run for 40,561km of streams in Utah, USA, and portions of surrounding states, predicting an overall network capacity of 356,294 dams at an average capacity of 8.8dams/km. We validated model performance using 2852 observed dams across 1947km of streams. The model showed excellent agreement with observed dam densities where beaver dams were present. Model performance was spatially coherent and logical, with electivity indices that effectively segregated capacity categories. That is, beaver dams were not found where the model predicted no dams could be supported, beaver avoided segments that were predicted to support rare or occasional densities, and beaver preferentially occupied and built dams in areas predicted to have pervasive dam densities. The resulting spatially explicit reach-scale (250m long reaches) data identifies where dam-building activity is sustainable, and at what densities dams can occur across a landscape. As such, model outputs can be used to determine where channel–floodplain and wetland connectivity are likely to persist or expand by promoting increases in beaver dam densities.
- Mayer, M., Zedrosser, A., & Rosell, F. (2017) When to leave: the timing of natal dispersal in a large, monogamous rodent, the Eurasian beaver. Animal Behaviour, 123: 375-382. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2016.11.020.
Abstract: As dispersal is a dangerous part of an individual’s life, its timing is important to increase the chances of survival and successful establishment of a territory. We investigated factors affecting the timing of natal dispersal in the Eurasian beaver, Castor fiber, a territorial, monogamous, long-lived mammal, using data from an 18-year individual-based study (1998-2015). We tested hypotheses about the causes of dispersal onset, namely competitive ability, kin competition (sibling competition and offspring parent competition), population density and intolerance by an incoming, unrelated dominant individual. Only 9% of individuals remained philopatric and became dominant after both of their parents disappeared. Average age at dispersal was 3.5 years, with some individuals delaying dispersal up to age 7 years. Beavers dispersed more frequently with increasing age (i.e. with increasing competitive ability and possibly experience) and when population density was lower. Further, both females and males delayed dispersal with increasing same-sex parental age. Older parents were either more tolerant towards philopatric subordinates, or subordinates awaited the disappearance of their senescing parents to take over the natal territory. From comparisons with other populations, we conclude that the high population density in our area was possibly the ultimate driver of dispersal with individuals delaying dispersal to increase their competitive ability.
- Parker, H., Zedrosser, A., & Rosell, F. (2017). Age-specific reproduction in relation to body size and condition in female Eurasian beavers. Journal of Zoology, 302(4), 236-243.
Abstract: Basic information on patterns and correlates of growth and reproduction are essential for understanding a species’ life history strategy. For the Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber), knowledge of life history is fragmentary and correlates of growth and reproduction unstudied. We related measures of somatic fitness including growth rate, body size (length), body condition (fat) and body mass to measures of reproductive investment including fecundity (number of corpora lutea (CL) and fetuses), age-specific reproduction, age of primiparity and parturition date in 59 female beavers culled from mid-March to mid-May in south-east Norway. Increase in body length ceased after age three. Primiparity at ages two and three was related to body length and mass, but not fat. Postponed primiparity beyond age two was common. Fecundity was significantly higher in fatter individuals and showed a trend to increase with age. For females ≥age three, those pregnant were significantly fatter than barren individuals. Intermittent years of non-breeding were common among sexually mature females. The mean number of CL and fetuses alive at the females time of death among 32 pregnant individuals was 3.0 ± 0.9 (range 1–6) and 2.3 ± 0.9 (range 1–4) respectively. Females conceiving at the normal peak time in late January were significantly heavier than individuals that conceived 1–3 months later. Late breeders, however, had significantly more CL, possibly because the improved nutrient levels provided by early spring growth led to higher ovulation rates. Fat accumulated during summer and autumn prior to winter breeding appears to be an important determinant of reproduction in female beavers.
- Puttock, A., Graham, H., Cunliffe, A., Elliott, M., & Brazier, R. (2017). Eurasian beaver activity increases water storage, attenuates flow and mitigates diffuse pollution from intensively-managed grasslands. Science of The Total Environment, 576, 430-443.
Abstract: Beavers are the archetypal keystone species, which can profoundly alter ecosystem structure and function through their
ecosystem engineering activity, most notably the building of dams. This can have a major impact upon water resource
management, flow regimes and water quality. Previous research has predominantly focused on the activities of North
American beaver (Castor canadensis) located in very different environments, to the intensive lowland agricultural landscapes
of the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe.
Two Eurasian beavers (Castor fiber) were introduced to a wooded site, situated on a first order tributary, draining
from intensively managed grassland. The site was monitored to understand impacts upon water storage, flow regimes and
water quality. Results indicated that beaver activity, primarily via the creation of 13 dams, has increased water storage
within the site (holding ca. 1000 m3 in beaver ponds) and beavers were likely to have had a significant flow attenuation
impact, as determined from peak discharges (mean 30 ± 19% reduction), total discharges (mean 34 ± 9% reduction) and
peak rainfall to peak discharge lag times (mean 29 ± 21% increase) during storm events. Event monitoring of water entering
and leaving the site showed lower concentrations of suspended sediment, nitrogen and phosphate leaving the site
(e.g. for suspended sediment; average entering site: 112 ± 72 mg l− 1, average leaving site: 39 ± 37 mg l− 1). Combined
with attenuated flows, this resulted in lower diffuse pollutant loads in water downstream. Conversely, dissolved organic
carbon concentrations and loads downstream were higher. These observed changes are argued to be directly attributable
to beaver activity at the site which has created a diverse wetland environment, reducing downstream hydrological connectivity.
Results have important implications for beaver reintroduction programs which may provide nature based solutions
to the catchment-scale water resource management issues that are faced in agricultural landscapes.
- Smeraldo, S., Di Febbraro, M., Ćirović, D., Bosso, L., Trbojević, I., & Russo, D. (2017). Species distribution models as a tool to predict range expansion after reintroduction: A case study on Eurasian beavers (Castor fiber). Journal for Nature Conservation, 37 (Supplement C), 12-20. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jnc.2017.02.008
Abstract: Species Distribution Models (SDMs) may provide important information for the follow-up phase of reintroduction operations by identifying the main areas most likely to be colonized by the reintroduced species. We used SDMs to identify the potential distribution of Eurasian beavers (Castor fiber) reintroduced to Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2004–2006 after being historically driven to extinction by overhunting. Models were also used to carry out a gap analysis to assess the degree of protection granted by the national reserve networks to the potentially expanding population. Distances from hydrographic network, broadleaved forest, main watercourses and farmland were the main factors influencing model performance. We estimated that suitable habitat covers 14.0% (31,000km2) of the whole study area. In Serbia, in 2004–2013 beavers expanded their range at a mean colonization speed of 70.9±12.8km/year (mean±SD). Only 2.89% of and 9.72% of beaver’s suitable habitat lie within the national network of protected areas of Bosnia and Serbia respectively. We detected new potential areas where beavers will likely settle in the near future, advising on where further monitoring should be carried out. We also identified low suitability areas to be targeted with appropriate management to improve their conditions as well as important regions falling outside reserve boundaries to which protection should be granted.
- Westbrook, C. J., Cooper, D. J., & Anderson, C. B. (2017). Alteration of hydrogeomorphic processes by invasive beavers in southern South America. Science of The Total Environment, 574 (Supplement C), 183-190. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.09.045
Abstract: The North American beaver (Castor canadensis) is an invasive species in southern Patagonia, introduced in 1946 as part of a program by the Argentine government to augment furbearers. Research focus has turned from inventorying the beaver’s population and ecosystem impacts toward eradicating it from the region and restoring degraded areas. Successful restoration, however, requires a fuller determination of how beavers have altered physical landscape characteristics, and of what landscape features and biota need to be restored. Our goal was to identify changes to the physical landscape by invasive beaver. We analyzed channel and valley morphology in detail at one site in each of the three major forest zones occurring on the Argentine side of Tierra del Fuego’s main island. We also assessed 48 additional sites across the three forest biomes on the island to identify a broader range of aquatic habitat occupied and modified by beaver. Beaver build dams with Nothofagus tree branches on streams, which triggered mineral sediment accretion processes in the riparian zone, but not in ways consistent with the beaver meadow theory and only at a few sites. At the majority of sites, beavers actively excavated peat and mineral sediment, moved thousands of cubic meters of sediment within their occupied landscapes and used it to build dams. Beaver were also common in fen ecosystems where pond formation inundated and drowned peat forming mosses and sedges, and triggered a massive invasion of exotic plant species. Results highlight that restoration of fen ecosystems is a previously unrecognized but pressing and challenging restoration need in addition to reforestation of Nothofagus riparian forests. We recommend that decision-makers include the full ecosystem diversity of the Fuegian landscape in their beaver eradication and ecosystem restoration plans.
- Campbell-Palmer, R., Gow, D., Campbell, R., Dickinson, H., Girling, S., Gurnell, J., . . . Rosell, F. (2016). The Eurasian Beaver Handbook: Ecology and Management of Castor fiber. Exeter: Pelagic Publishing, UK.
- Friesen, O. C., & Roth, J. D. (2016) Alternative prey use affects helminth parasite infections in grey wolves. Journal of Animal Ecology, 85: 1265-1274. doi:10.1111/1365-2656.12544.
Abstract: * Predators affect prey populations not only through direct predation, but also by acting as definitive hosts for their parasites and completing parasite life cycles. Understanding the affects of parasitism on prey population dynamics requires knowing how their predators’ parasite community is affected by diet and prey availability. Ungulates, such as moose (Alces americanus) and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), are often important prey for wolves (Canis lupus), but wolves also consume a variety of alternative prey, including beaver (Castor canadensis) and snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus). * The use of alternative prey, which may host different or fewer parasites than ungulates, could potentially reduce overall abundance of ungulate parasites within the ecosystem, benefiting both wolves and ungulate hosts. * We examined parasites in wolf carcasses from eastern Manitoba and estimated wolf diet using stable isotope analysis. Taeniidae cestodes were present in most wolves (75%), reflecting a diet primarily comprised of ungulates, but nematodes were unexpectedly rare. * Cestode abundance was negatively related to the wolf’s ?13C value, indicating diet affects parasite abundance. Wolves that consumed a higher proportion of beaver and caribou (Rangifer tarandus), estimated using Bayesian mixing models, had lower cestode abundance, suggesting the use of these alternative prey can reduce parasite loads. * Long-term consumption of beavers may lower the abundance of adult parasites in wolves, eventually lowering parasite density in the region and ultimately benefiting ungulates that serve as intermediate hosts. Thus, alternative prey can affect both predator-prey and host-parasite interactions and potentially affect food web dynamics.
- Gallant, D., Léger, L., Tremblay, É., Berteaux, D., Lecomte, N. & Vasseur, L. (2016) Linking time budgets to habitat quality suggests that beavers (Castor canadensis) are energy maximizers. Canadian Journal of Zoology 94: 671-676. https://doi:10.1139/cjz-2016-0016.
Abstract: According to optimal foraging theory, consumers make choices that maximize their net energy intake per unit of time. We used foraging theory as a framework to understand the foraging behaviour of North American beavers (Castor canadensis Kuhl, 1820), an important herbivore that engineers new habitats. We tested the hypothesis that beavers are energy maximizers by verifying the prediction that they allocate time to foraging activities independently of habitat quality in Kouchibouguac National Park of Canada in New Brunswick, where nearly five decades of unabated colonization by beavers led to family units established in habitats of varying quality. We observed the behaviour of 27 beavers at seven ponds from May to August 2001, at dusk and dawn. Habitat quality did not influence time that beavers allocated to foraging. This finding supported our hypothesis. The only factor in the best model explaining time spent foraging was the progression of spring and summer seasons (weekly periods). Limiting factors such as infrastructure maintenance and intermittent reactions to danger remain poorly understood for this important herbivore. Future research should focus on establishing the importance that habitat quality (food availability) and environmental stress (weather, predators) have on shaping its time budget and, consequently, its survival and reproductive success.
- Giriat, D., Gorczyca, E., & Sobucki, M. (2016). Beaver ponds’ impact on fluvial processes (Beskid Niski Mts., SE Poland). Science of The Total Environment, 544 (Supplement C), 339-353. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.11.103
Abstract: Beaver (Castor sp.) can change the riverine environment through dam-building and other activities. The European beaver (Castor fiber) was extirpated in Poland by the nineteenth century, but populations are again present as a result of reintroductions that began in 1974. The goal of this paper is to assess the impact of beaver activity on montane fluvial system development by identifying and analysing changes in channel and valley morphology following expansion of beaver into a 7.5km-long headwater reach of the upper Wisłoka River in southeast Poland. We document the distribution of beaver in the reach, the change in river profile, sedimentation type and storage in beaver ponds, and assess how beaver dams and ponds have altered channel and valley bottom morphology. The upper Wisłoka River fluvial system underwent a series of anthropogenic disturbances during the last few centuries. The rapid spread of C. fiber in the upper Wisłoka River valley was promoted by the valley’s morphology, including a low-gradient channel and silty-sand deposits in the valley bottom. At the time of our survey (2011), beaver ponds occupied 17% of the length of the study reach channel. Two types of beaver dams were noted: in-channel dams and valley-wide dams. The primary effect of dams, investigated in an intensively studied 300-m long subreach (Radocyna Pond), was a change in the longitudinal profile from smooth to stepped, a local reduction of the water surface slope, and an increase in the variability of both the thalweg profile and surface water depths. We estimate the current rate of sedimentation in beaver ponds to be about 14cm per year. A three-stage scheme of fluvial processes in the longitudinal and transverse profile of the river channel is proposed. C. fiber reintroduction may be considered as another important stage of the upper Wisłoka fluvial system development.
- Graf, P. M., Mayer, M., Zedrosser, A., Hackländer, K., & Rosell, F. (2016) Territory size and age explain movement patterns in the Eurasian beaver. Mammalian Biology – Zeitschrift für f 81(6): 587-594.
Abstract: Territoriality is only profitable when the benefits gained from territory exploitation exceed the costs of defence, and territory sizes are usually optimized by time constraints related to resource defence (e.g. patrolling) and exploitation. In this study, we equipped 25 dominant Eurasian beavers (Castor fiber) with GPS units to study spatial movement patterns both on land and in water in relation to territory size, resource availability, the number of neighbours, season, and the beavers’ age. We show a territory size-dependent trade-off between territorial behaviours and foraging distances: Beavers in larger territories moved greater distances each night, thereby spending more time patrolling, and stayed closer to the shoreline when being on land (i.e. when foraging). Inversely, in smaller territories beavers patrolled less and foraged further away from the shoreline. These results suggest that individuals trade-off the costs of patrolling larger territories against the benefits of foraging closer towards the shoreline. Smaller territories might be more prone to resource depletion, thus, making foraging further from the shoreline a strategy to ensure sustainable resource use. Further, older beavers spent more time on land and close to territory borders compared to younger ones, suggesting a behavioural change with age possibly due to increased experience and boldness.
- Law, A., F. McLean, et al. (2016). “Habitat engineering by beaver benefits aquatic biodiversity and ecosystem processes in agricultural streams.” Freshwater Biology 61(4): 486-499.
Abstract: * Small-scale discontinuities, formed by accumulations of wood, are recognised as a key feature of functionally intact forested streams because they promote organic matter retention, increase habitat complexity and provide flow refugia. Re-establishing such features in physically degraded streams is therefore a common priority for restoration schemes. Ecosystem engineering by beavers in the form of dam building might offer a natural mechanism for restoring degraded streams. Despite an increase in beaver reintroductions globally, the ecosystem engineering concept has rarely been applied to restoring biodiversity and ecosystem function, especially within degraded freshwater systems.* By comparing multiple beaver-modified and unmodified sites on headwater streams draining 13 ha of pastureland in eastern Scotland, U.K., we investigated if hydromorphological changes caused by reintroduced beavers (Castor fiber) translate into desirable biological responses when there is a long history of physical degradation and contraction of the regional species pool due to agricultural land use. * Beaver modified in-stream habitat by constructing 10 dams, thus creating a series of interconnected dam pools. Organic matter retention and aquatic plant biomass increased (7 and 20 fold higher respectively) in beaver ponds relative to unmodified channels, consistent with the lower fluctuation in stream stage observed below a series of dams. Growing season concentrations of extractable P and NO3 were on average 49% and 43% lower respectively below a series of dams than above, although colour and suspended solids concentrations increased. * Macroinvertebrate samples from beaver-modified habitats were less taxon rich (alpha diversity on average 27% lower) than those from unmodified stream habitat. However, due to significant compositional differences between beaver versus unmodified habitats, a composite sample from all habitats indicated increased richness at the landscape scale; gamma diversity was 28% higher on average than in the absence of beaver-modified habitat. Feeding guild composition shifted from grazer/scraper and filter feeder dominance in unmodified habitats to shredder and collector-gatherer dominance in beaver-created habitats. * Dam building by beaver in degraded environments can improve physical and biological diversity when viewed at a scale encompassing both modified and unmodified habitats. By restoring ecosystem processes locally, it may also offer wider scale benefits, including greater nutrient retention and flood attenuation. These benefits should be evaluated against evidence of any negative effects on land use or fisheries.
- McCaffery, M., & Eby, L. (2016) Beaver activity increases aquatic subsidies to terrestrial consumers. Freshwater Biology, 61 (4), 518-532. doi:10.1111/fwb.12725.
Abstract: * The occurrence and importance of fluxes of nutrients and organic matter between aquatic and terrestrial habitats is well established, but how catchment characteristics influence these fluxes remains unclear. Beaver (Castor canadensis) alter freshwater ecosystems and increase aquatic production, but it is unknown how these changes influence the magnitude and lateral dispersal of aquatic nutrients into terrestrial ecosystems.
* We examined differences in abundances of dominant aquatic invertebrates, wolf spiders (Lycosidae), and deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus), at beaver and non-beaver sites. We used stable isotopes to track aquatic-derived carbon in terrestrial consumers and linear mixed-effects models to examine the importance of beaver presence and distance from stream channel on the percentage of aquatic-derived carbon in terrestrial consumers.
* Sites with beaver activity had >200% higher aquatic invertebrate emergence rates as well as 60% and 75% higher abundances of spiders and deer mice, respectively, relative to non-beaver sites.
* The tissues of both spiders and deer mice exhibited a greater percentage of aquatic-derived carbon at sites with beaver activity than at non-beaver sites.
* Aquatic-derived carbon in deer mice declined linearly with distance from the stream edge at both beaver and non-beaver sites. The contribution of aquatic-derived carbon in mice extended farther from the stream edge in beaver-modified catchments. Aquatic-derived carbon in spiders also declined linearly with distance from the stream at beaver sites but not at non-beaver sites.
* We documented a novel example of increased aquatic subsidy to riparian areas with beaver activity, leading to changes in the magnitude of the lateral dispersal of aquatic nutrient subsidies to the terrestrial environment in small stream systems. Understanding the effects of natural disturbance regimes, such as beaver modification, will be important for management and, where appropriate, restoration of natural catchment processes.
- Small, B. A., Frey, J. K., & Gard, C. C. (2016) Livestock grazing limits beaver restoration in northern New Mexico. Restoration Ecology, n/a-n/a. doi:10.1111/rec.12364.
Abstract: The North American beaver (Castor canadensis) builds dams that pond water on streams, which provide crucial ecological services to aquatic and riparian ecosystems and enhance biodiversity. Consequently, there is increasing interest in restoring beavers to locations where they historically occurred, particularly in the arid western United States. However, despite often intensive efforts to reintroduce beavers into areas where they were severely reduced in numbers or eliminated due to overharvesting in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, beavers remain sparse or missing from many stream reaches. Reasons for this failure have not been well studied. Our goal was to evaluate certain biotic factors that may limit the occurrence of dam-building beavers in northern New Mexico, including competitors and availability of summer and winter forage. We compared these factors at primary active dams and at control sites located in stream reaches that were physically suitable for dam-building beavers but where none occurred. Beaver dams mostly occurred at sites that were not grazed or where there was some alternative grazing management, but were mostly absent at sites within Forest Service cattle allotments. Results indicated that cattle grazing influenced the relation between vegetation variables and beaver presence. The availability of willows (Salix spp.) was the most important plant variable for the presence of beaver dams. We conclude that grazing by cattle as currently practiced on Forest Service allotments disrupts the beaver-willow mutualism, rendering stream reaches unsuitable for dam-building beavers. We recommend that beaver restoration will require changes to current livestock management practices.
- Smith, J., Windels, S., Wolf, T., Klaver, R., & Belant, J. (2016) Do transmitters affect survival and body condition of American beavers (Castor canadensis)? Wildlife Biology, 29 January 2016.
Abstract: One key assumption often inferred with using radio-equipped individuals is that the transmitter has no effect on the metric of interest. To evaluate this assumption, we used a known fate model to assess the effect of transmitter type (i.e., tail-mounted or peritoneal implant) on short-term (1 yr) survival and a joint live-dead recovery model and results from a mark-recapture study to compare long-term (8 yr) survival and body condition of ear-tagged only American beavers (Castor canadensis) to those equipped with radio transmitters in Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota, USA. Short-term (1-yr) survival was not influenced by transmitter type (wi = 0.64). Over the 8-yr study period, annual survival was similar between transmitter-equipped beavers (tail-mounted and implant transmitters combined; 0.76; 95% CI = 0.45-0.91) vs ear-tagged only (0.78; 95% CI = 0.45-0.93). Additionally, we found no difference in weight gain (t9 = 0.25, P = 0.80) or tail area (t11 = 1.25, P = 0.24) from spring to summer between the two groups. In contrast, winter weight loss (t22 = ?2.03, p = 0.05) and tail area decrease (t30 = ?3.04, p = 0.01) was greater for transmitter-equipped (weight = ?3.09 kg, SE = 0.55; tail area = ?33.71 cm2, SE = 4.80) than ear-tagged only (weight = ?1.80 kg, SE = 0.33; tail area = ?12.38 cm2, SE = 5.13) beavers. Our results generally support the continued use of transmitters on beavers for estimating demographic parameters, although we recommend additional assessments of transmitter effects under different environmental conditions.
- Stringer, A. P., & Gaywood, M. J. (2016) The impacts of beavers Castor spp. on biodiversity and the ecological basis for their reintroduction to Scotland, UK. Mammal Review, n/a-n/a. doi:10.1111/mam.12068.
Abstract: * In Scotland, UK, beavers became extinct about 400 years ago. Currently, two wild populations are present in Scotland on a trial basis, and the case for their full reintroduction is currently being considered by Scottish ministers. Beavers are widely considered “ecosystem engineers”. Indeed, beavers have large impacts on the environment, fundamentally change ecosystems, and create unusual habitats, often considered unique. In this review, we investigate the mechanisms by which beavers act as ecosystem engineers, and then discuss the possible impacts of beavers on the biodiversity of Scotland.
* A meta-analysis of published studies on beavers’ interactions with biodiversity was conducted, and the balance of positive and negative interactions with plants, invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals recorded.
* The meta-analysis showed that, overall, beavers have an overwhelmingly positive influence on biodiversity. Beavers’ ability to modify the environment means that they fundamentally increase habitat heterogeneity. As beavers are central-place foragers that feed only in close proximity to watercourses, their herbivory is unevenly spread in the landscape. In addition, beaver ponds and their associated unique successional stages increase habitat heterogeneity both spatially and temporally. Beavers also influence the ecosystems through the creation of a variety of features such as dams and lodges, important habitat features such as standing dead wood (after inundation), an increase in woody debris, and a graded edge between terrestrial and aquatic habitats that is rich in structural complexity.
* In Scotland, a widespread positive influence on biodiversity is expected, if beavers are widely reintroduced. For instance, beaver activity should provide important habitat for the otter Lutra lutra, great crested newt Triturus cristatus and water vole Arvicola amphibious, all species of conservation importance.
* Beavers are most likely to have detrimental impacts on certain woodland habitats and species of conservation importance, such as the Atlantic hazelwood climax community and aspen Populus tremula woodland. A lack of woodland regeneration caused by high deer abundance could lead to habitat degradation or loss. These are also of particular importance due to the variety of associated dependent species of conservation interest, such as lichen communities in Atlantic hazelwoods.
- Thompson, S., Vehkaoja, M., & Nummi, P. (2016). Beaver-created deadwood dynamics in the boreal forest. Forest Ecology and Management, 360 (Supplement C), 1-8. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2015.10.019
Abstract: Deadwood is a markedly important ecosystem element, and increasingly rare in managed landscapes. Beavers (Castor sp.) are ecosystem engineers of the boreal forest, where they modify riparian forests and wetlands through damming. The subsequent inundation causes extensive die-off of trees in the flood zone. We measured the deadwood volumes and types for six beaver-created flood sites, and compared these to control sites with no beaver influence. Our results show beavers create abundant volumes of deadwood in areas rarely experiencing other disturbance types. Significant amounts of beaver-created deadwood consist of rare types, e.g. snags and deciduous wood. Both coarse and fine woody debris are created. These varying substrates increase deadwood heterogeneity and create differing saproxylic community diversity compared to other disturbances. The roaming lifestyle of beavers cause repeated flooding in boreal landscapes. This upholds deadwood continuity in areas where deadwood levels are very low due to intensive forest management. The reoccurring pulses of deadwood created by beavers may facilitate a wide scope of deadwood-dependent species. The beaver can be used as a deadwood facilitator and engine of restoration in boreal wetlands and riparian forests. This is an economic option compared to costly and time-consuming man-made restoration.
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More to come….