Date of Award:

12-2018

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Ecology

Advisor/Chair:

Trisha Atwood

Co-Advisor/Chair:

Phaedra Budy

Third Advisor:

Brett Roper

Abstract

Beavers were virtually extirpated from North America during the fur trade, but populations have since recovered. Dams built by recolonizing beaver alter stream habitat by forming deep, slow ponds within the streams. Such changes to the habitat is likely to have consequences for organisms such as macroinvertebrates and fish. The objective of this study was to identify the differences in the macroinvertebrate and trout community in beaver ponds and lotic (e.g. flowing reaches of a stream) reaches in tributaries to the Logan River in northeastern Utah. The macroinvertebrate community of beaver ponds had fewer species, fewer numbers, and lower biomass of macroinvertebrates compared to lotic reaches. Macroinvertebrates that consume leaf litter and predators that prey on other macroinvertebrates characterized beaver pond macroinvertebrate communities. In contrast, lotic reaches contained macroinvertebrates that consume algae and feed on particles floating through the water column. Macroinvertebrates in lotic reaches were morphologically adapted to cling to rocks in the streamflow, while those in beaver ponds were adapted to living within the fine sediment.

Bonneville cutthroat trout collected from lotic reaches were larger than those collected from beaver ponds, while the opposite was true for brown trout collected from lotic reaches. I also found that short-term and long-term diets of both brown trout and Bonneville cutthroat trout were similar between trout caught in beaver pond and lotic reaches. Finally, I found that growth rates of trout were also similar between the two habitats. In conclusion, the structure and function of macroinvertebrates, which are dependent on small-scale habitat features, were more affected by inclusion of beaver ponds to the stream network. Conversely, trout collected from beaver ponds and lotic regions were similar in growth and diet. Considering that beavers are used as a common restoration tool, further studies on the effects of beaver on stream communities is essential.

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