Beaver, Architects To The Birds

BALTIMORE, Md. -- Beaver, the civil engineers of the animal kingdom, may also be architects for waterfowl and other birds according to Penn State wildlife ecologists.

"Beaver are very successful today in Pennsylvania and contribute to all types of wetlands -- forested, scrub, emergent and open water -- except marine wetlands," says Diann Prosser, graduate student in wildlife ecology. "One of the questions we had was what is the relationship between beaver pond succession and waterfowl productivity."

The Pennsylvania Game Commission, which is interested in understanding beaver for possible future management purposes, funded this research along with the Penn State Cooperative Wetlands Center. Prosser and Dr. Robert P. Brooks, professor of wildlife and wetlands, investigated beaver pond succession -- the stages a pond goes through during its life span -- and the birds, both waterfowl and others, that enjoy the habitat created by beaver.

"The Game Commission was particularly interested in waterfowl and broods -- mothers and their chicks," says Prosser. "They were interested in the types or stages of beaver ponds that are most valuable for waterfowl and their broods. We found that beaver pond succession creates a variety of good habitat for waterfowl and their broods as well as other birds," she told attendees at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America today (Aug 5) in Baltimore.

That beaver play a major part in Pennsylvania forest ecology today is amazing considering that the last native beaver in the state was trapped in 1912. Reintroduced in 1917, today there are an estimated 32,000 beaver in the state according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission estimates. Prosser estimates about 6,500 beaver ponds in Pennsylvania.

Beaver ponds are typically active for 30 years from initial damming of a stream to abandonment. The three main stages of a beaver pond include new active, old active and ab

Contact: A'ndrea Elyse Messer
Penn State

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