Co-declining mammal-dung beetle faunas throughout the Atlantic Forest biome of South America

17 July 2019

Bogoni, Juliano; Silva, Pedro; Peres, Carlos A.

The millennial-scale evolutionary relationships between mammals and dung beetles have been eroded due to several drivers of contemporary biodiversity loss. Although some evidence of co-decline has been shown for mammals and dung beetles at some Neotropical sites, a biome-scale analysis for the entire Atlantic Forest of South America would strengthen our understanding of how relictual sets of mammal species can affect dung beetle co-occurrences and co-declines. We therefore collated hundreds of assemblages of both dung beetles and medium- to large-bodied mammals throughout the world’s longest tropical forest latitudinal gradient to examine to what extent mammal assemblages may exert a positive influence on dung beetle species composition and functional assembly, and whether this relationship is scale dependent. We also collated several climatic and other environmental variables to examine the degree to which they shape mammal-dung beetle relationships. The relationships between local mammal and dung beetle faunas were examined using regression models, variation partitioning, dissimilarity indices, and ecological networks. We found a clear positive relationship between mammal and dung beetle species richness across this forest biome, indicating an ongoing process of mammal-dung beetle niche-mediated co-decline. We found a strong relationship between the species composition of both taxa, in which dung beetle species dissimilarity apparently track changes in mammalian dissimilarity, typically in 80% of all cases. Co-variables such as phytomass and climatic variables also influenced mammal-dung beetle patterns of co-decline along the Atlantic Forest. We conclude that dung beetle diversity and community assembly are shaped by the remaining co-occurring mammal assemblages and their functional traits, and both groups were governed by environmental features. We emphasize that ecosystem-wide effects of mammal population declines remain poorly understood both quantitatively and qualitatively, and curbing large vertebrate defaunation will ensure the persistence of co-dependent species.

Doi
10.1111/ecog.04670