Keystone Species-The Beaver

Sunday, November 8, 2020

A keystone species has a large impact on their habitat given their size and numbers. Their daily activities impact all kinds of other species.

A keystone is a central stone at the summit of an arch, locking the whole together.

A keystone species helps keep the entire ecosystem together.

keystone species

When beavers build their dam and lodge they basically create their own wetlands which impact many other organisms.

In addition, as the number of beavers increase the biodiversity of the ecosystem increases, and also the inverse fewer beavers less biodiversity.

You may have heard the expression “ Busy as a beaver?”

That is because they stay busy building stuff.

Beavers build dams and a lodge to live in.

The dam transforms a stream or creek into a wetland.

Beavers are highly adapted for water and are great swimmers, They can stay underwater for up to 15 minutes. They are also safe from many predators while in the water.

beaver swimming

So…. they just create their own wetland by building a dam.

In turn, this wetland impacts many other species.

In doing so, beavers change the distribution and abundance of many other animals and plants, mostly by indirect interactions

Behind the beaver dam, a pond of still water is formed.  This pond is then populated by animals and plants that typically live in lakes rather than streams.

When beavers cut down trees for food and for building their dams and lodges, they select the species of trees that they prefer and leave other tree species standing.  Consequently, after many years, the forest beside a beaver pond is usually dominated by different tree species than it was before beaver occupation, and in the gaps where the beavers removed trees, bushes and saplings now grow.

The beaver's dam-building skills impact all of the following, 

birds amphibians reptiles invertebrates tree large animals like moose and many more organisms.

Another key point of a Keystone species like a beaver is that they can be used to determine the health of an ecosystem.

So in reality, the largest rodent in North America is actually a dam-building, tree eating, superhero.

beaver cartoon

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