Beavers Shape Northern Minnesota Ecosystem

Book details impact of beavers at Voyageurs National Park

Article ID: 682109

Released: 2-Oct-2017 2:05 PM EDT

Source Newsroom: South Dakota State University

  • Credit: Photo by Daniel Mallwitz

    South Dakota State University Professor Carol Johnston examines how beavers have impacted the Kabetogama Peninsula, which is home to Voyageurs National Park near International Falls, Minnesota, in her newly released book, “Beavers: Boreal Ecosystem Engineers.”

  • Credit: Photo by Carol Johnston

    This aspen tree in Voyageurs National Park has been partially cut by beavers, the only animals other than humans that cut down mature, live trees. Chapter 4 of the recently published “Beavers: Boreal Ecosystem Engineers” describes how beavers alter the forests surrounding their ponds.

  • Credit: Photo by Thomas Gable

    An abandoned beaver lodge becomes a den for these wolf cubs in Voyageurs National Park. The beaver’s impact on mammals is detailed in the recently released book, “Beavers: Boreal Ecosystem Engineers.”

  • Credit: Photo by Voyageurs National Park staff

    Birds, such as these trumpeter swans nesting atop an abandoned beaver mound, benefit from the structures that beavers build.

Newswise — Beavers have probably been more influential than humans in altering the Kabetogama Peninsula ecosystem in northern Minnesota, writes South Dakota State University Professor Carol Johnston. She examined how beavers have impacted the peninsula which is home to Voyageurs National Park near International Falls, Minnesota, in her newly released book, “Beavers: Boreal Ecosystem Engineers.”

“This book is about a place and the science of how beavers shaped it,” said Johnston, who has been conducting research on beavers for 30 years. She wrote eight of the book’s 10 chapters based on her National Science Foundation-funded beaver research.

University of North Dakota biology professor and ecologist Isaac Schlosser and retired Voyageurs National Park research biologist Larry W. Kallemeyn wrote a chapter on how beaver impoundments affect fish populations. In the final chapter, Voyageurs National Park terrestrial ecologist Steve Windels describes their impact on amphibians, birds and mammals.

The book, which is published by Springer, has garnered praise from wetland ecologists. Petri Nummi, leader of the Wetland Ecology Group at the University of Helsinki, called it “a magnificent beaver book.” Nummi has been studying beavers in Finland for more than 30 years.

“I would like to express my thanks for your efforts in compiling a book on your seminal beaver work in Minnesota. You and your fellow researchers did a lot of great work—nice to see it in print,” wrote Don Barnes, a retired faculty member from Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. He did research on the impact of beavers in the Chapleau Crown Game Preserve in northern Ontario.

Johnston began studying the Kabetogama beavers in 1986, while at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. However, her interest in beavers began in 1974 when she worked as an aerial photo interpreter on the New York State Wetlands Inventory.  After she accompanied New York Department of Environmental Conservation wildlife biologist Gary Parsons on a trip into the Adirondack Mountains to inspect beaver dams, Johnston recalls, “I was hooked.”  

Johnston is a fellow of the Society of Wetland Scientists and served as its first female president in 1992. She was also the first female chair of the Soil Science Society of America’s Wetland Soils Division.

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