Land-use responses of dung beetle communities and their ecosystem services

Project: Research

Project participants

  • Aßmann, Thorsten (Project manager, academic)
  • Blüthgen, Nico (Project manager, academic)
  • Schmitt, Thomas (Project manager, academic)


Dung beetle communities contribute to the rapid decomposition of faecal deposits from both wild mammals and domestic livestock, representing a key ecosystem service. We will assess dung beetle community composition and removal rates for cow, sheep, horse, wild boar, deer and fox dung in all experimental plots in forests and grasslands. Dung removal is predicted to increase both with the density and biodiversity of beetles, and will have a non-linear relationship to local livestock density. While dung contamination by veterinary parasiticides is known to negatively affect beetle performance, dung decomposition may be more resilient in more diverse beetle communities.Beetles utilize dung volatiles, which are partly degradation products of nutritional ingredients, as cues to find suitable resources. Differences in nutrient and volatile composition may thus explain variation in activity and specificity of beetles across different dung types, which will be investigated with dung and odour traps. Key kairomonal cues will be identified and investigated in field experiments. Their significance as predictors for dung beetle preferences will be tested. Moreover, a functional trait database for all species will be established in order to support a more general interpretation of land-use effects on functional diversity and potential ecosystem services.