Dung beetle assemblages in primary forest and disturbed habitats in a tropical dry forest landscape in western Mexico

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Dung beetles (Scarabaeinae) are conspicuous components in most terrestrial ecosystems, performing important ecological functions and services. Being sensitive to several types of disturbance, they have been successfully used as indicators of habitat change. Dung beetle communities in tropical rainforests have been well studied, but considerably less information is available for tropical dry forests. In this study I sampled dung beetles in two undisturbed habitats, deciduous forest and semideciduous forest, and two disturbed habitats, secondary forest and open area habitat, in the Chamela-Cuixmala region of western Mexico. Dung beetle species with high indicator value for each habitat were identified. Beetle abundance, observed species richness and estimated species richness were similar in the three forest habitats, but significantly lower in the open area habitat. A more detailed analysis of species-specific abundances in the three forest habitats revealed some differences. Transects of one of the undisturbed habitats, the deciduous forest, were more similar to the non-adjacent transects of disturbed secondary forest, than to the adjacent undisturbed semideciduous forest transects. Unlike studies in other tropical sites that have found a decrease in equitability in Scarabaeinae assemblages between undisturbed forest and disturbed habitat (particularly open habitats), in the Chamela-Cuixmala region all four habitats showed similar low equitability in community structure, with two or three very dominant species.

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