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Dung Beetle Community and Functions along a Habitat-Disturbance Gradient in the Amazon: A Rapid Assessment of Ecological Functions Associated to Biodiversity

Public Library of Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0057786
  • Research Article
  • Biology
  • Ecology
  • Agroecology
  • Ecosystems Agroecology
  • Community Ecology
  • Community Assembly
  • Ecosystems
  • Ecosystem Functioning
  • Behavioral Ecology
  • Biodiversity
  • Bioindicators
  • Conservation Science
  • Physiological Ecology
  • Population Ecology
  • Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Organic Compounds
  • Functional Groups
  • Agricultural Science
  • Biology
  • Ecology


Although there is increasing interest in the effects of habitat disturbance on community attributes and the potential consequences for ecosystem functioning, objective approaches linking biodiversity loss to functional loss are uncommon. The objectives of this study were to implement simultaneous assessment of community attributes (richness, abundance and biomass, each calculated for total-beetle assemblages as well as small- and large-beetle assemblages) and three ecological functions of dung beetles (dung removal, soil perturbation and secondary seed dispersal), to compare the effects of habitat disturbance on both sets of response variables, and their relations. We studied dung beetle community attributes and functions in five land-use systems representing a disturbance gradient in the Brazilian Amazon: primary forest, secondary forest, agroforestry, agriculture and pasture. All response variables were affected negatively by the intensification of habitat disturbance regimes, but community attributes and ecological functions did not follow the same pattern of decline. A hierarchical partitioning analysis showed that, although all community attributes had a significant effect on the three ecological functions (except the abundance of small beetles on all three ecological functions and the biomass of small beetles on secondary dispersal of large seed mimics), species richness and abundance of large beetles were the community attributes with the highest explanatory value. Our results show the importance of measuring ecological function empirically instead of deducing it from community metrics.

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