, Volume 15, Issue 7, pp 1173-1181
Date: 28 Jul 2012

Are Dung Beetles Driving Dung-Fly Abundance in Traditional Agricultural Areas in the Amazon?

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We evaluated the effects of different land-use systems on the ability of dung beetles to control the population of detritus-feeding flies. We tested the hypotheses that intensification of land use will reduce dung beetles richness, abundance and biomass and, consequently, their dung burial ability, affecting the interaction between dung beetles and flies and reducing its effectiveness as a natural biological control. In the Brazilian Amazon we sampled dung beetles, fly larvae and adults; and recorded the rate of dung removal by dung beetles across a gradient of land-use intensity from primary forest, secondary forest, agroforestry, agriculture to pasture. Our results provide evidence that land-use intensification results in a reduction of the richness, abundance and biomass of dung beetles, and this in turn results in lower rates of dung removal in the most simplified systems. We found no significant differences in the abundance of fly larvae between the different systems of land use. However, the number of adult flies differed significantly between land-use systems, presenting higher abundance in those sites with greater intensity of use (pasture and agriculture) and a lower abundance of adult flies in forested systems (primary and secondary forests, and agroforestry). Information-theoretic model selection based on AICc revealed strong support for the influence of land-use systems, dung removal rates and dung beetle abundance, biomass and richness on adult dung-fly abundance. Our results also reveal that dung beetles are not solely responsible for fly control and that other factors linked to land use are influencing the populations of these detritus-feeding insects.

Author contributions

RFB and JL conceived of or designed study and contributed to adapt the method of sampling. RFB, VK, and LDA performed research. VK and JL analyzed data. RFB, VK, LDA, and JL wrote the paper.