Caddo Lake, USA, a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance, is a lacustrine wetland complex consisting of stands of flooded baldcypress intermixed with open water and emergent wetland habitats. Recently, concern has been expressed over a perceived increase in the beaver population and the impact of beaver on the long-term sustainability of the baldcypress ecosystem. We used intensive beaver lodge surveys to determine the distribution and relative abundance of beaver and the amount, type, and distribution of beaver damage to mature trees and seedlings at Caddo Lake. A total of 229 lodges were located with a combination of aerial and boat/ground surveys. Most lodges were located in open water and edge habitats. About 95% of the lodges were occupied by beaver or nutria. Some form of damage was exhibited by one or more trees near 85% of the lodges. Intensive damage assessments around 35 lodges indicated that most damage to trees, baldcypress in particular, was restricted to peeling or stripping of bark which is believed to have minimal effect on tree survival. Surveys of regeneration indicated that baldcypress seedlings were very abundant; however, over 99.9% were less than 30 cm tall. The lack of recruitment into the larger size classes appears to be a result of high stand densities and water management practices. At this time, the young age and density of the baldcypress forests suggest that recruitment is not a major concern and herbivore damage appears to be having a minimal effect on the forest.
Additional publication details
Beaver lodge distributions and damage assessments in a forested wetland ecosystem in the southern United States