Decaying matters: Coleoptera involved in heterotrophic systems

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Beetles: Biodiversity, Ecology and Role in the Environment, 2015, pp. 123 - 174
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© 2015 by Nova Science Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. In terrestrial ecosystems, a rich assemblage of Coleoptera species contributes to the breakdown of plant and animal organic materials such as dead wood, fruits, leaf litter, feces, and carcasses, including human cadavers. This taxon represents a key component of energy flow in many ecosystems both because heterotrophic Coleoptera species contribute to nutrient cycling and because they are important trophic links in food webs. However, the taxon as a whole has not received much consideration in the literature and similarities between terrestrial heterotrophic systems have yet to be investigated. This chapter examines the diversity and ecological roles of Coleoptera fauna involved in terrestrial heterotrophic communities and reviews the main mechanisms and models of heterotrophic succession. The impacts on heterotrophic Coleoptera of resource patch characteristics (e.g., abundance, distribution, and resource quality) and of anthropogenic alterations of habitats supporting resource patches (e.g., agriculture, forest management, urbanization, global changes) are described and discussed.
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