Conservation and Trapping Science

Eurasian Beaver: rearranges the assemblage of terrestrial mammals in winter
Apr 1, 2022 06:48 ET

Abstract

There is increasing awareness of the ecosystem engineering services provided by recovering populations of Eurasian beaver. By modifying aquatic environments, this species has a significant, positive influence on biodiversity. Beaver activity affects not only aquatic ecosystems but also terrestrial habitats and organisms. Our study compares and evaluates the species richness and activity of terrestrial mammals in winter at beaver ponds (N = 65) and randomly-selected reference sites along nearby watercourses unmodified by beavers (N = 65) in Poland (central Europe). Mammal assemblages were investigated near pond/watercourse edges, and also at some distance from them. The species richness of mammal and numbers of their tracks were respectively 25% and 33% greater on the beaver than on the reference sites. The higher species richness on beaver sites extended to areas 40–60 m distant from ponds, devoid any signs of beaver activity. Twenty-three mammal species were recorded on beaver sites (mean species richness 3.8 ± 1.6 SD), and 20 on reference ones (3.0 ± 1.5 SD). The numbers of tracks of grey wolf, least weasel and European polecat were higher on beaver than reference sites. Mammal species richness and activity were related to the existence of beaver ponds, but were also correlated with the numbers of snags and coverage of grass, bramble and coniferous saplings in neighbouring terrestrial habitats. Large and small carnivores occurred more frequently and were more active on beaver sites. The frequencies of occurrence of mesocarnivores, mesoherbivores and small herbivores were correlated with habitat characteristics, regardless of whether beavers were present or not. Our results highlight the fact that both pond creation and the habitat changes resulting from the presence of beavers rearrange the occurrence and activity of the terrestrial mammal assemblage.

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