Monitoring the ecosystem service provided by dung beetles offers benefits over commonly used biodiversity metrics and a traditional trapping method

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
Journal for Nature Conservation, 2013, 21 (3), pp. 183 - 188
Issue Date:
2013-06-01
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Surveying terrestrial invertebrates often requires lethal techniques that can also kill non-target vertebrates. Removing the desirable components of biodiversity is at odds with the philosophy of ecological restoration and biodiversity conservation more generally. Moreover, commonly used metrics generated by such survey approaches (e.g. abundance and species richness) are only indirectly related to the ecosystem services (e.g. pollination) that are often of primary interest. We examined the relationship between rates of dung removal (a direct measure of an ecosystem service) and dung beetle abundance and species richness in a temperate region of New South Wales, Australia, and examined if dung removal in revegetated riparian areas of different ages were trending monotonically toward rates in areas with mature native vegetation. Pellets of pig manure and conventional traps were left at study sites for 48. h to examine the relationships between rates of dung removal and dung beetle abundance and richness. Regressions of abundance and richness with average percent dung removal were positive and significant, demonstrating the potential of the method as a non-lethal proxy. While the dung removal method cannot determine the species responsible, percentage dung removal was more time-efficient, costing 4. min per sample, while abundance and richness cost 13 and 17. min, respectively. Despite variability among replicates of the same habitat type, the trajectory across the restoration gradient showed an increase from sites recently revegetated toward those with mature woody vegetation. We interpreted these results as a positive response of dung beetle activity and an indication of recovery of this ecosystem service. We argue that responses that can be collected efficiently such as dung removal should be used if restorationists have limited resources for data collection and analysis; non-specialists are involved; knowledge of ecosystem function is required, and animal ethics constrain options. © 2012 Elsevier GmbH.
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