Beavers beneficial for biodiversity

We know the beaver as one of the ecosystem engineers. We even celebrate International Beaver Day. Their presence can influence the habitat around them quite drastically, and with it the biodiversity. In many countries, the beaver went extinct years ago. Reintroduction efforts of the Eurasian beaver resulted in a fairly healthy population of about 1 million individuals across Europe nowadays. Still it is understudied what the impact of beavers is on other animals. Researchers from Finland recently published the results of their study, indicating that many land- and water-based animals benefit from the beavers’ presence.

Natural architects

The beavers are able to change their environment structurally, as they build their beaver dams. The wetlands slowly turn into flooded areas, promoting different patches of wet and dryer grounds. Researchers identified that frogs, fish, waterbirds and bats benefit directly from the new waterbodies. The otter is also benefitting, especially in winter times, by finding places where fish can still be hunted. The benefits to other mammals was still largely unknown.

In their recent study, the scientists performed an analysis on sites in Finland, including camera trapping and show tracking. The results showed that in areas with beavers, the presence of other mammals was significantly higher.

Rich beaver meadows

Especially the places on the banks, where plants and herbs flourish next to the beaver pond, are a hotspot for other animal species. Most noteworthy was the increased presence of moose. The moose seemed to benefit from the young saplings of deciduous trees that grew in the beaver area. Even the bark and branches from trees that beavers felled, provided food sources for moose and deer during winter times. Also on the banks of the meadows, otters and minks would be able to spot and hunt for the abundant invertebrates, fish and frogs.

Not everybody is happy with the return of the beaver. There are places where people destroy the beaver dams, to avoid flooding of their lands. However, as this study confirms, the role of beavers is important for many other species out there. Fortunately, beavers are dispersing to new regions. Last year, the first beavers re-appeared in Italy after 450 years of absence for example. It is important that we provide enough room for these ecosystem engineers to reclaim their place in the ecosystem, and that we support efforts in doing so.

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