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The beaver as an ecosystem engineer facilitates teal breeding

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Positive interactions are important in influencing communities. Facilitation is one such influence in which a species makes the environment more suitable for others species. Ecological engineers are powerful facilitators as they physically modify habitats in a way that alters resource availability. We studied the effect of beaver flooding on breeding success of a dabbling duck, the teal. Our long-term (1988-2001) study was conducted in a boreal area where dabbling ducks face resource limitation. We focused on two aspects of facilitation: resource enhancement and habitat amelioration. We found that pond use by teal broods systematically increased upon beaver flooding. Beaver ponds harboured more resource, i.e. aquatic invertebrates than undisturbed waters, and invertebrate abundance was reflected as enhanced teal brood density. Beaver inundated shores were shallower than those of other waters, making their habitat structure more favourable to ducklings. Consequently, teal brood mortality was lower in beaver ponds than in waters unaffected by beaver. In boreal areas beaver facilitate teal breeding by enhancing both resource abundance and habitat structure.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2008

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