Dung beetle conservation: effects of habitat and resource selection (Coleoptera: Scarabaeoidea)

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:1999
Authors:E. Barbero, Palestrini, C., Rolando, A.
Journal:Journal of Insect Conservation
Keywords:conservation, deforestation, domestic and wild ungulates, dung beetle, habitat and food selection, regeneration mammals, Scarabaeoidae

There is increasing concern about the conservation of dung beetles which are threatened by several peculiar dangers worldwide, both at the population and community level. A noticeable threat in Europe is the dramatic reduction in the number of cattle and sheep grazing in the open, which is associated with both intensive agriculture and the progressive reforestation of previously pastured areas. We studied dung beetle habitat and resource preferences at La Mandria Park (north-west Italy) which is a mosaic of open and wooded patches where domestic (cows and horses) and wild ungulates (deer and wild boar) co-exist. Scarabaeidae were numerically dominant, accounting for 61.5% of the approximately 3000 individuals sampled (Aphodiidae accounted for 32.5% and Geotrupidae for only 6%). However, when species richness was considered, Aphodiidae were dominant, with 17 of the 27 species found (Scarabaeidae with eight and Geotrupidae with two). Assuming a null hypothesis of equal probability of colonizing any habitat or faeces, we found that most species were significantly associated with one of the four dung types or with one of the two habitats considered. On average, Scarabaeidae preferred cattle dung and open habitats whereas most Aphodiidae used deer lumps and wooded habitats. In spite of the precise ecological choices observed at La Mandria, surveys from other European areas suggest that both habitat and food selection are quite flexible. From a conservation viewpoint, the ability of coprophagous beetles to choose herbivore faeces according to their availability and to select habitats that satisfy their own microclimate requirements may certainly be useful in preserving biodiversity. Agroecology, which implies some woodland and hedgerow management practices associated with pastoralism, could be the right approach to the management of the agricultural landscape. Conversely, in reforested areas, while wild ungulate populations should be preserved, some form of human disturbance, particularly clearings used for pastoralism, should also be maintained.

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith