Advertisement

Springer Nature is making Coronavirus research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Ecosystem engineering by invasive exotic beavers reduces in-stream diversity and enhances ecosystem function in Cape Horn, Chile

Abstract

Species invasions are of global significance, but predicting their impacts can be difficult. Introduced ecosystem engineers, however, provide an opportunity to test the underlying mechanisms that may be common to all invasive engineers and link relationships between changes in diversity and ecosystem function, thereby providing explanatory power for observed ecological patterns. Here we test specific predictions for an invasive ecosystem engineer by quantifying the impacts of habitat and resource modifications caused by North American beavers (Castor canadensis) on aquatic macroinvertebrate community structure and stream ecosystem function in the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve, Chile. We compared responses to beavers in three habitat types: (1) forested (unimpacted) stream reaches, (2) beaver ponds, and (3) sites immediately downstream of beaver dams in four streams. We found that beaver engineering in ponds created taxonomically simplified, but more productive, benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages. Specifically, macroinvertebrate richness, diversity and number of functional feeding groups were reduced by half, while abundance, biomass and secondary production increased three- to fivefold in beaver ponds compared to forested sites. Reaches downstream of beaver ponds were very similar to natural forested sections. Beaver invasion effects on both community and ecosystem parameters occurred predominantly via increased retention of fine particulate organic matter, which was associated with reduced macroinvertebrate richness and diversity (via homogenization of benthic microhabitat) and increased macroinvertebrate biomass and production (via greater food availability). Beaver modifications to macroinvertebrate community structure were largely confined to ponds, but increased benthic production in beaver-modified habitats adds to energy retention and flow for the entire stream ecosystem. Furthermore, the effects of beavers on taxa richness (negative) and measures of macroinvertebrate biomass (positive) were inversely related. Thus, while a generally positive relationship between diversity and ecosystem function has been found in a variety of systems, this work shows how they can be decoupled by responding to alterative mechanisms.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4

References

  1. Anderson CB, Hendrix PF (2002) Hallazgo de Eisniella tetraedra (Savigny 1826) (Annelida: Oligochaeta) en Isla Navarino, Chile. An Inst Patagonia 30:143–146

  2. Anderson CB, Rozzi R, Torres-Mura JC, McGehee SM, Sherriffs MF, Schuettler E, Rosemond AD (2006a) Exotic vertebrate fauna in the remote and pristine sub-Antarctic Cape Horn Archipelago region of Chile. Biodivers Conserv 10:3295–3313

  3. Anderson CB, Griffith CR, Rosemond AD, Rozzi R, Dollenz O (2006b) The effects of invasive North American beavers on riparian vegetation communities in Cape Horn, Chile: do exotic beavers engineer differently in sub-Antarctic ecosystems? Biol Conserv 128:467–474

  4. Badano EI, Cavieres LA (2006) Impacts of ecosystem engineers on community attributes: effects of cushion plants at different elevations of the Chilean Andes. Divers Distrib 12:388–396

  5. Baekken T, Fjellheim A, Larson R (1984) Benthic animal production in a weir basin area in western Norway. In: Lillehammer A, Saltveit SJ (eds) Regulated rivers. University Press, Oslo, pp 223–232

  6. Benke AC (1979) A modification of the Hynes method for estimating secondary production with particular significance for multivoltine populations. Limnol Oceanogr 24:168–171

  7. Benke AC (1993) Concepts and patterns of invertebrate production in running waters. Edgardo Baldi memorial lecture. Verh Internat Verein Limnol 25:15–38

  8. Benke AC, Huryn AD, Smock LA, Wallace JB (1999) Length–mass relationships for freshwater macroinvertebrates in North America with particular reference to the southeastern United States. J North Am Benthol Soc 18:308–343

  9. Chapin FS, Zavaleta ES, Eviner VT, Naylor RL, Vitousek PM, Reynolds HL, Hooper DU, Lavorel S, Sala OE, Hobbie SE, Mack MC, Diaz S (2000) Consequences of changing biodiversity. Nature 405:234–242

  10. Colwell RK (1997) EstimateS: statistical estimation of species richness and shared species from samples. Version 6.1. User’s guide and application published at: http://www.viceroy.eeb.unconn.edu/estimates

  11. CONAF (1988) Manual de ingenería forestal. Manual técnico no. 7. Gerencia Técnica. Corporación Nacional Forestal. Ministerio de Agricultura, Santiago de Chile, p 65

  12. Crooks JA (2002) Characterizing ecosystem-level consequences of biological invasion: the role of ecosystem engineers. Oikos 97:153–166

  13. Cross WF, Wallace JB, Rosemond AD, Eggert SL (2006) Whole stream nutrient enrichment increases secondary production in detritus-based ecosystem. Ecology 6:1556–1565

  14. Downes BJ, Lake PS, Schreiber ESG, Glaister A (1998) Habitat structure and regulation of local species diversity in a stony, upland stream. Ecol Monogr 68:237–257

  15. Ellison AM, Bank MS, Clinton BD, Colburn EA, Elliott K, Ford CR, Foster DR, Kloeppel BD, Knoepp JD, Lovett GM, Mohan J, Orwig DA, Rodenhouse NL, Sobczak WV, Stinson KA, Stone JK, Swan CM, Thompson J, von Holle B, Webster JR (2005) Loss of foundation species: consequences for the structure and dynamics of forested ecosystems. Front Ecol Environ 9:479–486

  16. Fernández HR, Domínguez E (2001) Guía para la determinación de los artrópodos bentónicos sudamericanos. Universidad Nacional de Tucumán, Tucumán, Argentina, p 282

  17. Fjellheim A, Raddum GG, Schnell OA (1989) Changes in benthic animal production of a weir basin after eight years of succession. Regul Rivers 3:183–190

  18. Gíslason GM, Gardarsson A (1988) Long-term studies on Simulium vittatum Zett. (Diptera: Simuliidae) in the River Laxá, North Iceland, with particular reference to different methods used in assessing population changes. Verh Int Verein Limnol 23: 2179–2188

  19. Guegan JF, Lek S, Oberdoff T (1998) Energy availability and habitat heterogeneity predict global riverine fish diversity. Nature 391:382–384

  20. Hamilton AL (1969) On estimating annual production. Limnol Oceanogr 14:771–782

  21. Harrelson CC, Rawlins CL, Potyondy JP (1994) Stream channel references sites: an illustrated guide to field technique. General technical report RM-245. USDA Forestry Service, Fort Collins, Colo., p 63

  22. Harvey CJ, Peterson BJ, Bowden WB, Hershey AE, Miller MC, Deegan LA, Finlay JC (1998) Biological responses to fertilization of Oksrukuyik Creek, a tundra stream. J N Am Benthol Soc 17:190–209

  23. Hopkins CL (1976) Estimates of biological production in some stream invertebrates. N Z J Mar Freshwater Res 10:629–640

  24. Huryn AD (1996) An appraisal of the Allen paradox in a New Zealand trout stream. Limnol Oceanogr 41:243–252

  25. Huryn AD (1998) Ecosystem-level evidence for top-down and bottom-up control of production in a grassland stream system. Oecologia 115:173–183

  26. Huryn AD, Wallace JB (2000) Life history and production of stream insects. Annu Rev Entomol 45:83–110

  27. Jones CG, Lawton JH, Shachak M (1994) Organisms as ecosystem engineers. Oikos 69:373–386

  28. Kerr JT, Packer L (1997) Habitat heterogeneity as a determinant of mammalian species richness in high-energy regions. Nature 385:252–254

  29. Kerr JT, Southwood TRE, Cihlar J (2001) Remotely sensed habitat diversity predicts butterfly species richness and community similarity in Canada. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 98:11365–11370

  30. Lizarralde MA (1993) Current status of the introduced beaver (Castor canadensis) population in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. Ambio 22:351–358

  31. Martínez Pastur G, Lencinas V, Escobar J, Quiroga P, Malmierca L, Lizarralde M (2006) Understory succession in areas of Nothofagus forests in Tierra del Fuego (Argentina) affected by Castor canadensis. J Appl Veg Sci 9:143–154

  32. McDowell DM, Naiman RJ (1986) Structure and function of a benthic invertebrate stream community as influenced by beaver (Castor canadensis). Oecologia 68:481–489

  33. Merritt RW, Cummins KW (1996) An introduction to the aquatic insects of North America, 3rd ed. Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, p 862

  34. Miserendino ML (2001) Length–mass relationships for macroinvertebrates in freshwater environments in Patagonia (Argentina). Ecol Aust 11:3–8

  35. Miserendino ML, Pizzolón LA (2000) Macroinvertebrates of a fluvial system in Patagonia: altitudinal zonation and functional structure. Archiv Hydrobiol 150:55–83

  36. Mittermeier R, Mittermeier C, Robles-Gil P, Pilgrim J, Fonseca G, Brooks J, Konstant J (2002) Wilderness: Earth’s last wild places. Cemex and Conservation International, Washington, D.C., p 573

  37. Moorman, MC (2007) The conservation implications of introduced trout and beaver on native fish in the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve, Chile. M.S. thesis in marine science. Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C.

  38. Naeem S, Wright JW (2003) Disentangling biodiversity effects on ecosystem functioning: deriving solutions to a seemingly insurmountable problem. Ecol Lett 6:567–579

  39. Naiman RJ, Melillo JM (1984) Nitrogen budget of a subarctic stream altered by beaver (Castor canadensis). Oecologia 62:150–155

  40. Naiman RJ, Melillo JM, Hobbie JE (1986) Ecosystem alteration of boreal forest streams by beaver (Castor canadensis). Ecology 67:1254–1269

  41. Naiman RJ, Johnston CA, Kelley JC (1988) Alteration of North American streams by beaver: the structure and dynamics of streams are changing as beaver recolonize their historic habitat. BioScience 38:753–762

  42. Petersen BJ, Deegan L, Helfrich J, Hobbie JE, Hullar M, Moller B, Ford TE, Hershey A, Kipphut G, Lock MA, Fiebig DM, McKinley V, Miller MC, Vestal JR, Ventullo R, Volk G (1993) Biological responses of a tundra river to fertilization. Ecology 74:653–672

  43. Pickard DP, Benke AC (1996) Production dynamics of Hyalella azteca (Amphipoda) among different habitats in a small wetland in the southeastern USA. J N Am Benthol Soc 15:537–550

  44. Pringle CM, Naiman RJ, Bretschko C, Karr JR, Oswood MW, Webster JR, Welcomme RL, Winterbourn MJ (1988) Patch dynamics in lotic systems—the stream as a mosaic. J N Am Benthol Soc 7:503-524

  45. Rosell F, Bozsér O, Collen P, Parker H (2005) Ecological impacts of beavers Castor fiber and Castor canadensis and their ability to modify ecosystems. Mammal Rev 35:248–276

  46. Rozzi R, Massardo F, Berghoefer A, Anderson CB, Mansilla A, Mansilla M, Plana J (eds) (2006) Reserva de Biosfera Cabo de Hornos. Ediciones de la Universidad de Magallanes. Punta Arenas, Chile

  47. Sax DF, Kinlan BP, Smith KF (2005) A conceptual framework for comparing species assemblages in native and exotic habitats. Oikos 108:457–464

  48. Skewes O, González F, Olave R, Ávila A, Vargas V, Paulsen P, König HE (2006) Abundance and distribution of American beaver, Castor canadensis (Kuhl 1820), in Tierra del Fuego and Navarino islands, Chile. Eur J Wildl Res 52:292–296

  49. Strayer DL, Caraco NF, Cole JJ, Findlay S, Pace ML (1999) Transformation of freshwater ecosystems by bivalves. BioScience 49:19–27

  50. Thorp JH, Covich AP (1991) Ecology and classification of North American freshwater invertebrates. Academic Press, New York, p 911

  51. Tuhkanen S, Kuokka I, Hyvonen J, Stenroos S, Niñéemela J (1989) Tierra del Fuego as a target for biogeographical research in the past and present. An Inst Patagonia 19:5–107

  52. Vitousek PM (1990) Biological invasions and ecosystem processes: towards an integration of population biology and ecosystem studies. Oikos 57:7–13

  53. Vitousek PM, Walker LR, Whitaker LD, Muellerdombois D, Matson PA (1987) Biological invasion of Myrica faya alters ecosystem development in Hawaii. Science 238:802–804

  54. Vitousek PM, D’Antonio CM, Loope LL, Westerbrooks R (1996) Biological invasions as global environmental change. Am Sci 84:468–478

  55. Wallace JB, Benke AC (1984) Quantification of wood habitat in sub-tropical coastal plain streams. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 41:1643–1652

  56. Wallace JB, Eggert SL, Meyer JL, Webster JR (1997) Multiple trophic levels of a forest streak linked to terrestrial litter inputs. Science 277:102–104

  57. Wallem PK, Jones CG, Marquet PA, Jaksic FM (2007) Identificación de los mecanismo subyacentes a la invasión de Castor canadensis (Kuhl 1820, Rodentia) en el archipiélago de Tierra del Fuego, Chile. Rev Chil Hist Nat (in press)

  58. Winterbourn MJ (1973) A guide to the freshwater Mollusca of New Zealand. Tuatara 20:141–159

  59. Winterbourn MJ, Ryan PA (1994) Mountain streams in Westland, New Zealand: benthic ecology and management issues. Freshwater Biol 32:359–373

  60. Wright JP, Jones CG (2004) Predicting effects of ecosystem engineers on patch-scale species richness from primary production. Ecology 85:2071–2081

  61. Wright JP, Jones CG, Flecker AS (2002) An ecosystem engineer, the beaver, increases species richness on the landscape scale. Oecologia 132:96–101

Download references

Acknowledgements

Thanks to the field and lab assistants who participated in this study, especially Margaret Sherriffs and Michelle Moorman. The following experts helped to identify specimens: W. Shepard, California State University, USA (Elmidae), P. Adler, Clemson University, USA (Simuliidae), I. McLellan, Landcare Research Institute, New Zealand (Gripopterygidae) and M. Mercado, Latoratorio Benthos, Chile (General). The manuscript was improved by comments from A. Mehring, C. R. Carroll, A. T. Fisk, C. M. Pringle, J. B. Wallace, the Rosemond Lab and three reviewers. This research was supported by a Fulbright Scholarship, a Boren Fellowship from the National Security Education Program of the U.S. Department of Defense, a Graduate Assistantship from the University of Georgia, a Tinker Foundation Travel Award, a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (DEB-0407875) and an Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity Postdoctoral Fellowship to C. B. A. (ICM P05–002). Logistical support was provided by the Omora Ethnobotanical Park—University of Magallanes (http://www.omora.org, http://www.umag.cl/williams). This research is part of the long-term ecological study network coordinated by the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity (http://www.ieb-chile.cl) and conforms to all pertinent national laws.

Author information

Correspondence to Christopher B. Anderson.

Additional information

Communicated by Michael Keough.

Electronic supplementary material

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Anderson, C.B., Rosemond, A.D. Ecosystem engineering by invasive exotic beavers reduces in-stream diversity and enhances ecosystem function in Cape Horn, Chile. Oecologia 154, 141–153 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-007-0757-4

Download citation

Keywords

  • Ecosystem engineer
  • Exotic
  • Invasion
  • Secondary production
  • Subantarctic