Title

Beavers as Ecosystem Engineers: Influence of Wetland Class and Vegetation Structure on Avian Species Richness

Date of Award

5-2016

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Environmental and Forest Biology

Thesis Advisor

Stacy A. McNulty

Keywords

Beavers, Castor canadensis, wetland habitats

Comments

Beavers (Castor canadensis) are high-level ecosystem engineers that greatly impact wetland habitat. I compared vegetation composition and structure for four National Wetland Inventory (NWI) wetland classes and related site variables to bird species richness. I conducted bird point counts at 11 sites on ESF’s Huntington Wildlife Forest in Newcomb, NY. Line transects were conducted with six, 1 m2 plots per 80-m transect for plant species and vertical structural complexity (VSC). The forested wetland class had the greatest plant diversity (Ds = 0.697) and second highest bird species richness. Multivariate analysis using non-metric multidimensional scaling (NMS) demonstrated that bird richness, plant richness, and VSC were not statistically correlated with NWI class (r2 < 0.15). I did find a positive relationship between bird and plant species richness across sites, although species assemblages were not statistically correlated. Bird assemblages were correlated with VSC and certain plant species. These results indicate the importance of habitat complexity to wetland and edge birds. The NWI classification scheme was an unreliable way to categorize wetlands in terms of current vegetation and bird communities. Management that conserves a variety of vegetal structure at beaver-influenced wetlands will provide a diversity of habitat for birds.

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