Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Comparing sediment microbial communities of Arctic beaver ponds to tundra lakes and streams

July 20, 2023

In recent decades the habitat of North American beaver (Castor canadensis) has expanded from boreal forests into Arctic tundra ecosystems. Beaver ponds in Arctic watersheds are known to alter stream biogeochemistry, which is likely coupled with changes in the activity and composition of microbial communities inhabiting beaver pond sediments. We investigated bacterial, archaeal, and fungal communities in beaver pond sediments along tundra streams in northwestern Alaska (AK), USA and compared them to those of tundra lakes and streams in north-central Alaska that are unimpacted by beavers. β-glucosidase activity assays indicated higher cellulose degradation potential in beaver ponds than in unimpacted streams and lakes within a watershed absent of beavers. Beta diversity analyses showed that dominant lineages of bacteria and archaea in beaver ponds differed from those in tundra lakes and streams, but dominant fungal lineages did not differ between these sample types. Beaver pond sediments displayed lower relative abundances of Crenarchaeota and Euryarchaeota archaea and of bacteria from typically anaerobic taxonomic groups, suggesting differences in rates of fermentative organic matter (OM) breakdown, syntrophy, and methane generation. Beaver ponds also displayed low relative abundances of Chytridiomycota (putative non-symbiotic) fungi and high relative abundances of ectomycorrhizal (plant symbionts) Basidiomycota fungi, suggesting differences in the occurrence of plant and fungi mutualistic interactions. Beaver ponds also featured microbes with taxonomic identities typically associated with the cycling of nitrogen and sulfur compounds in higher relative abundances than tundra lakes and streams. These findings help clarify the microbiological implications of beavers expanding into high latitude regions.

Publication Year 2023
Title Comparing sediment microbial communities of Arctic beaver ponds to tundra lakes and streams
DOI 10.1029/2023JG007408
Authors Kelly Shannon, Natasha R. Christman, Byron C. Crump, Michael P. Carey, Joshua C. Koch, Laura L. Lapham, Jonathan A. O'Donnell, Brett A. Poulin, Ken D. Tape, Jason A. Clark, Frederick S. Colwell
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Index ID 70248393
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center Ecosystems