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Beavers in lakes: a review of their ecosystem impact
Sep 5, 2020 07:18 ET
The aim of this review is to analyze the literature on the impact of beavers on lakes, summarize their effects, describe consequences for biotic and abiotic components, and highlight unresolved issues and perspectives. Beaver activity changes vegetation structure to the greatest extent, indirectly affecting other ecosystem components. Damming of flowing lakes increases the littoral area, which affects diversity and abundance of invertebrates, amphibians, birds, and mammals. Beavers’ alteration of the water regime and heterogeneity and connectivity of habitats has significant effects on zoobenthos, fish, and amphibians. Changes in hydrochemical properties directly affect phytoplankton and benthos. Unlike river ecosystems, where habitats are altered from flowing to still water, in lake ecosystems, habitat type is not usually changed (from lotic to lentic) but their quality (e.g., heterogeneity, connectivity) is. Beaver activity in rivers leads to increased limnophilic biodiversity, but in lakes, it leads to conservation of pre-existing lentic ecosystems. Therefore, impacts of beavers could be of greater importance to limnophilic complexes in lakes than to streams, especially after long time of beaver absence. Digging activity has a more significant role in lakes (especially floodplain) than in rivers. Beaver alteration of heterogeneity and connectivity of habitats is well studied, but not enough is known about impacts on the water regime of seasonally flowing waters, hydrochemical changes (especially eutrophication), amphibian life cycles, phytoplankton and zooplankton communities, parasitocenoses, and coarse woody debris. Methodological difficulties are noted, which are associated with the correct choice of control lakes. Further studies on riverine lakes are crucial. In considerations of climatic changes and anthropogenic impact, beavers may be an additional aid to conserving small lake ecosystems.