Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Dung beetle assemblages are recognized as ecological bioindicators, allowing us to monitor ecological impacts by observing community shifts. Acting as primary nutrient cyclers, they establish niche segregation by sometimes selecting dung based on species (e.g. coyote vs. deer) and by using dung in different ways (e.g. rollers vs. tunnelers). Longleaf pine savannahs are recognized as global hotspots for diversity. Species of dung beetles found within these ecosystems may differ substantially from those found in surrounding agricultural, residential or other forest land. Our objective was to investigate whether the exclusion of mammalian meso-predator exclusion impacts dung beetle abundance, species composition and community diversity within a pristine longleaf pine forest. We randomized dung pitfall traps along a single transect inside four predator exclusion plots and in paired open control plots, each approximately 40.5 hectares in size, in longleaf pine forests at The Jones Center at Ichauway, a nature preserve and research center in southwest Georgia. We collected from traps 72 hours after baits were placed each month, over a two-year period. We identified dung beetles to species or genus level excluding aphodiines which we identified to the subfamily level. We compared species composition, population densities, and associated diversity indices between predator exclusion and control (non-exclusion) plots. The exclusion of predators affected the abundance and composition of individual species, while whole communities were affected by individual sites. When we controlled for seasonality, we found significant differences in species diversity between sites with predators and those without.
Young, Kelsea Lynn, "In the Pines: Dung Beetle Community Composition in Longleaf Pine Habitat" (2021). All Theses. 3640.