John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
benthic community, biodiversity, Castor canadensis, ecosystem engineer, functional feeding group
- Understanding changes in macroinvertebrate communities is important because they play a large role in stream ecosystem functioning, and they are an important food resource for fish. Beaver‐induced changes to stream morphology could alter macroinvertebrate communities, which in turn could affect food webs and ecosystem function. However, studies investigating the effects of North American beaver activities on macroinvertebrates are rare in the inter‐mountain west, an area with high potential for beaver‐assisted restoration.
- The aim of this study was to quantify differences in the macroinvertebrate community between unaltered segments of streams and within beaver ponds in north‐eastern Utah, U.S.A. We assessed macroinvertebrate species richness, biomass, density, functional feeding group composition, mobility group composition, and macroinvertebrate habitat characteristics to test the hypothesis that macroinvertebrate communities will differ among habitat types (undammed stream segments and beaver ponds) in beaver‐occupied streams.
- Beaver pond communities significantly differed from lotic reach communities in many ways. Beaver ponds were less diverse with 25% fewer species. Although there was variability among streams, in general, beaver ponds had 75% fewer individuals and 90% lower total macroinvertebrate biomass compared to lotic reaches.
- Regarding functional feeding groups, beaver ponds contained more engulfers, while lotic reaches contained more scrapers, filterers, and gatherers. For mobility groups, beaver ponds had more sprawlers, while lotic reaches had more clingers. Swimmers were also more prevalent in lotic reaches, although this is probably due to the abundance of Baetis within lotic reaches. More beaver pond taxa were classified as lentic‐dwelling insects, while more lotic reach taxa were categorised as preferring lotic habitats.
- The creation of ponds by beavers fundamentally altered the macroinvertebrate community in north‐eastern Utah streams. Such changes to stream macroinvertebrate communities suggest that recolonisation of beavers across North America may be altering stream functioning and food webs. Our study highlights the need to further investigate the effects of beaver recolonisation on stream communities.
Washko, S, Roper, B, Atwood, TB. Beavers alter stream macroinvertebrate communities in north‐eastern Utah. Freshwater Biology. 2019; 00: 1– 13. https://doi.org/10.1111/fwb.13455