Tree retention in cattle ranching systems partially preserves dung beetle diversity and functional groups in the semideciduous Atlantic forest: the role of microclimate and soil conditions.
The disturbance of natural environments affects, among others, the diversity of dung beetle assemblages, which could have serious consequences for the ecological processes regulated by these insects. The objective of this study was to evaluate and compare species diversity and functional groups of dung beetle assemblages both in the native forest and in three livestock systems that differed in their structure and composition of vegetation: a livestock system with native trees, a livestock system with exotic trees (Pinus taeda), and traditional open pastures, in the semideciduous Atlantic forest of Argentina, in an area previously covered by continuous forest and currently with a heterogeneous landscape of native forest and different land uses. Pitfall traps baited with cow dung were used in the natural forests and the livestock systems studied. A total of 2461 beetles belonging to 38 species were captured. Treed livestock systems showed the highest species richness (0D) and diversity (1D and 2D). Twelve functional groups were identified. The native forest showed the highest functional group richness, while open pastures had the lowest. In general, livestock systems showed a low proportional abundance of telecoprid, diurnal and large beetles. Microclimate (average temperature and humidity) and soil conditions (soil composition: sandy or clayey) were closely associated with the species and functional group composition. Results confirm that cattle ranching with tree retention preserves dung beetle diversity, and suggest that cattle systems without canopy cover have higher impact (negative effects) than silvopastoral systems on both species and functional groups.