Deforestation and biodiversity: effects of bushland cultivation on dung beetles in semi-arid Tanzania

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2007
Authors:S. Tind Nielsen
Journal:Biodiversity Conservation
Keywords:Anthropogenic disturbance

Dung beetles provide important ecosystem services in the habitats where they occur. The activity of dung beetles enhances soil nutrient cycling and increases the soil’s ability to absorb and hold water. Consequently, these beetles are particularly important in semi-arid environments. This study analyses the importance of remaining wooded habitat patches (bushland) for the survival of a diverse dung beetle fauna in an otherwise culti- vated landscape in semi-arid Tanzania. Dung beetles were sampled by pitfall trapping in maize fields and bushland habitats. In total, 6037 dung beetles (Scarabaeidae: Scarabaeinae), representing 77 species from 25 genera, were collected. Many species, particularly amongst the ball-rollers, showed a clear preference for wooded patches, species richness being significantly higher in the bushland patches than in the cultivated sites. The number of trapped specimens in bushland was also considerably higher than that found in maize fields, although the differences were not significant. In conclusion, bushland fragments appear to have an important conservation value as to maintaining a high diversity and abundance of dung beetles, thereby enhancing the ecosystem services provided by these beneficial insects.

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