Coypu and muskrat – a threat to biodiversity?

With the increasing spread of coypu and muskrat, their harmful effects become the focus of attention. Both species dig tunnels and burrows on embankments and feed on aquatic vegetation, damaging mainly reed plants like reed and bulrush. Reed vegetation constitutes the habitat of numerous animal species: birds such as the great bittern or the reed warbler breed here and migratory birds look for resting places on their transit in reeds. Different species of fish spawn in the reed beds, where juvenile fishes can find protection from predators thereafter. Furthermore, various insects, including many dragon- and damselflies, depend on reed plants.

Coypu and muskrat can massively damage reed vegetation through their burrowing and feeding activities and thereby compromise the habitat of numerous protected animal species.

A coypu feeding on the floating blade zone at Lake Dümmer

As part of the MICA project, the effects of coypu and muskrat on biodiversity are being investigated. For this purpose, mapping of aquatic vegetation, bird populations and dragonflies is carried out several times a year in the project areas and compared with data on the occurrence of coypu and muskrat (hunting statistics and camera trap monitoring).

Aschauteiche (German project area no. 2)
Abandoned channel of Vechte in Grafschaft Bentheim (German project area no. 3)
Lake Dümmer (German project area no. 1)

The Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research of the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover and the Agricultural Chamber Lower Saxony carried out the first field mapping of the aquatic vegetation and dragonfly species in the German project areas in August and September this year.

Vegetation mapping at Lake Dümmer
Damselfly mapping at Aschauteiche
Dragonfly mapping at Aschauteiche

Kick-off “Alien Species – a discourse”

With increasing awareness of the society for the problem of invasive animal species, ethical issues concerning how to deal with these animals also come into focus.

The Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research participates in this dialogue with a public relations project that is funded by the Ministry of Science and Culture of Lower Saxony as part of the program Future Discourses. With the project title “Alien species – a Discourse: how do we deal with introduced species, and how do we want to deal with them in the future?” the issue of ethics has already being faced. The project aims to establish a dialogue between different interest groups and shed light on society´s attitude towards invasive species.

The kick-off event took place on September 24, 2020 at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, in compliance with hygiene regulations in effect. Teachers and interested citizens were invited additionally to representatives from research, hunting, water associations, nature conservation organizations and politics. Partners from the German project areas of the Life-MICA project took part as well.

After short initial presentations, in which the opinion of the individual stakeholders were presented, there was an active discussion on various conflict topics, as for example: the conflict about the repartition of responsibilities between hunting and pest control, the problem of by-catches of protected species by trapping and the lack of awareness in the society for the threats imposed by invasive species. A further deepening of certain discussion contents and the development of a questionnaire will represent the next steps towards an impulse paper with which the project aims to raise a question mark. The topic of neozoa will be also made accessible to young people. For this purpose, a workshop box with exercises and illustrative material on the subject neozoa was prepared and will soon be worked on by students from different regions in Germany. Moreover, an informative short film on the subject of neozoa was made.

Additionally, you can find the recording of the event here.