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The influence of Euro BEAVER Castor on fish in rivers in Russia
Jun 29, 2021 07:16 ET

In recent decades, the Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) has once again become the keystone species in small river ecosystems in Russia. In many places, beaver activity has resulted in a significant change in lotic habitats, affecting the diversity, density, and biomass of aquatic organisms, including fish. While many studies have considered the ecosystem impacts of beavers, relatively few have focused on understanding the influence of beaver activity on steppe rivers. We conducted the first quantitative study of beaver impacts on fish assemblages in beaver-influenced and beaver-free sites on two small steppe rivers in the Don River basin in Russia. The presence of beavers altered the habitats in small steppe rivers and affected the diversity, density, and biomass of fish. A comparison of the number of species, density, and biomass of fish in six types of river habitats showed that these parameters were lower in beaver ponds than at riverine sites without beaver activity. Three fish species primarily preferred a single habitat type. Barbatula barbatula was found in riffles, Misgurnus fossilis in old beaver ponds, and Eudontomyzon mariae in abandoned beaver ponds. Beavers impacted fish distribution and density by changing dissolved oxygen, pH, and water current velocity. Overall, our results showed that the presence of beavers led to a temporary homogenization of fish habitats at a local scale in the valleys of small steppe rivers because beavers occupied these rivers only for a short period. However, habitat heterogeneity may increase if the beaver population stays stable or expands in the future.

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