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Utilisation of woody plants for lodge construction by European beaver (Castor fiber) in the Loire valley, France
Selection and use of woody plants in beaver (Castor fiber) lodge construction on the Loire River are poorly understood. We investigated woody species used by beaver for construction and analysed the efficiency of the tree-cutting technique used. We observed that beavers used branches of Salicaceae of large diameter (approx. 4.5 cm) to build the frames of their lodges, even in sites where these were scarce. They then cut small branches of the more abundant species in any given site (Salix fragilis, S. alba, Fraxinus angustifolia, Ulmus minor) to cover the lodge. The shapes of cut tree sections depended on diameter at the cut, and orientation was related to bank slope. Most cut trees (55%) fell into the water, where they were more easily exploited than those that fell in other directions. We conclude that beavers of the Loire River need Salicaceae for construction, even where they are scarce. The tree-cutting technique is efficient for exploiting fallen trees, but leads to changes in plant morphology. Repeated use by beaver creates shrubby re-growth that is too small for use in lodge construction.
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