Beaver ponds as habitat of amphibian communities in a central European highland

In: Amphibia-Reptilia
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  • 1 1KARCH, Swiss amphibian and reptile conservation programme, Natural History Museum of Berne, Bernastrasse 15, CH-3005, Berne, Switzerland
  • 2 2Biologische Station im Kreis Düren e.V., Zerkaller Str. 5, D-52385 Nideggen, Germany;, Email: L_Dalbeck@yahoo.com
  • 3 3Biologische Station im Kreis Düren e.V., Zerkaller Str. 5, D-52385 Nideggen, Germany

Abstract

The Eurasian beaver Castor fiber, formerly occurred across the Palaearctic, but was nearly eradicated in the 19th century. Due to reintroductions in the 20th century, beaver populations are increasing and now extend into highland areas. Natural still waters are scarce in highlands of Central Europe. Therefore the question arises, “Are beaver ponds essential habitats for amphibians?”, especially since fishes, predators of amphibian larval stages, also inhabit beaver ponds. We investigated the amphibian fauna of one typical valley in the Eifel, that was colonized by beavers in 1981, and compared areas with and without beaver ponds. All anuran species of the region occupied beaver ponds, including species that were absent (Alytes obstetricans, Bufo bufo and Rana kl. esculenta) or rare (Rana temporaria) in natural waters. Alytes obstetricans obviously benefited from pond construction and the removal of trees by beavers which leads to sunny plots along the slopes of the valley, crucial habitat for this species. The urodelans Salamandra salamandra, Triturus alpestris and Triturus helveticus were widely distributed in beaver ponds. Our results show clearly, that beaver altered landscapes offer high quality habitats for amphibians in our study area. Due to a considerable increase of habitat heterogeneity in impounded streams, the predator Salmo trutta was not able to extirpate the amphibian fauna. We conclude that the historic effects of beavers need to be considered for a proper understanding of patterns of amphibian distribution and habitat requirements in Central European Highlands. Furthermore, beaver-created landscapes will be of future relevance for conservation of endangered species, like Alytes obstetricans.

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