, Volume 124, Issue 1–3, pp 405–415 | Cite as

Spatiotemporal dynamics of boreal landscapes with ecosystem engineers: beavers influence the biogeochemistry of small lakes

  • Mia Vehkaoja
  • Petri Nummi
  • Martti Rask
  • Tiina Tulonen
  • Lauri Arvola


It has been suggested that beavers affect biogeochemical processes and the environment on a relatively large scale, thus acting as ecosystem engineers. In this long-term study we evaluated the effects of beavers on water chemistry in small boreal lakes of Southern Finland. We addressed the following three questions; does water chemistry differ between beaver and non-beaver lakes; does water chemistry differ between the flood years in comparison to the antecedent years; and does the flood impact downstream lakes? The results showed that beaver lakes had higher dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations but lower dissolved oxygen (DO) concentrations than non-beaver lakes. DOC concentration increased during the first three beaver-impoundment years when compared to the pre-impoundment situation, and DO concentrations simultaneously decreased. Lake DOC concentrations furthermore declined back to initial levels after the impoundment had lasted for 4–6 years. The opposite occurred with DO. No clear effects caused by beaver impoundments were found in downstream lakes however. Beaver activity had no effect on N and P concentrations in lakes, but our results emphasize that the beaver affects the carbon cycling in the boreal zone. Further research is therefore needed to clarify its effect on the carbon balance at different spatial scales.


Beaver impoundment Before–after setting Biogeochemical hot spot Boreal lakes Carbon balance Dissolved organic carbon Nutrient pulse 



Funding for data analysis (MV) was kindly provided by the Maj and Tor Nessling Foundation, and for the long-term study, including sampling and chemistry analyses, by the Lammi Biological Station, University of Helsinki, and the Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute. Special thanks to Antti Nykänen for map illustration and to Stella Thompson for grammatical corrections. Two anonymous referees are thanked for their useful comments on improving the manuscript.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mia Vehkaoja
    • 1
  • Petri Nummi
    • 1
  • Martti Rask
    • 2
  • Tiina Tulonen
    • 3
  • Lauri Arvola
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Forest SciencesUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Evo Game and Fisheries ResearchFinnish Game and Fisheries Research InstituteEvoFinland
  3. 3.Lammi Biological StationUniversity of HelsinkiLammiFinland

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