Term of Award

Fall 2005

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Department

Department of Biology

Committee Chair

Bruce A. Schulte

Committee Member 1

Lissa M. Leege

Committee Member 2

Lorne M. Wolfe

Committee Member 3

Michelle L. Zjhra

Abstract

North American beavers are considered ecosystem engineers. Their activities can quickly and drastically alter habitat properties and perhaps permit highly aggressive colonizing plants, notably non-native species, to invade and potentially dominate. This study examined if beavers in southeastern Georgia have an effect on the terrestrial plant community. Sampling areas included beaver modified (N=9) and nearby but relatively non-impacted riparian habitat (N=9) in a matched pairs design. Vegetation surveys were performed in spring and summer. Species richness was calculated for herbs, vines, woody seedlings, and woody vegetation. Richness of herbaceous vegetation was higher at distances closer to shore while richness of large woody vegetation increased with distance from shore. Woody vegetation also was more abundant in beaver sites. Composition was not different between the two site types. The presence of exotic species was rare and did not differ by site type. This study provides evidence that beavers may play an important role in determining the vegetative structure of their community.

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