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El Niño impacts on human-modified tropical forests: Consequences for dung beetle diversity and associated ecological processes: Consequences for dung beetle diversity and associated ecological processes

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/03/2020
Issue number2
Number of pages11
Pages (from-to)252-262
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date9/02/20
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Our knowledge of how tropical forest biodiversity and functioning respond to anthropogenic and climate-associated stressors is limited. Research exploring El Niño impacts are scarce or based on single post-disturbance assessments, and few studies assess forests previously affected by anthropogenic disturbance. Focusing on dung beetles and associated ecological functions, we assessed (a) the ecological effects of a strong El Niño, (b) if post-El Niño beetle responses were influenced by previous forest disturbance, and (c) how these responses compare between forests impacted only by drought and those affected by both drought and fires. We sampled 30 Amazonian forest plots distributed across a gradient of human disturbance in 2010, 2016, and 2017—approximately 5 years before, and 3–6 and 15–18 months after the 2015–16 El Niño. We found 14,451 beetles from 98 species and quantified the beetle-mediated dispersal of >8,600 seed mimics and the removal of c. 30 kg of dung. All dung beetle responses (species richness, abundance, biomass, compositional similarity to pre-El Niño condition, and rates of dung removal and seed dispersal) declined after the 2015–16 El Niño, but the greatest immediate losses (i.e., in 2016) were observed within fire-affected forests. Previous forest disturbance also influenced post-El Niño dung beetle species richness, abundance, and species composition. We demonstrate that dung beetles and their ecological functions are negatively affected by climate-associated disturbances in human-modified Amazonian forests and suggest that the interaction between local anthropogenic and climate-related stressors merits further investigation. Abstract in Portuguese is available with online material.