Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 27, Issue 9, pp 2379–2394 | Cite as

Dung beetles and their ecological functions in three agroforestry systems in the Lacandona rainforest of Mexico

  • Carolina Santos-Heredia
  • Ellen Andresen
  • Diego A. Zárate
  • Federico Escobar
Original Paper
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Forest and plantation biodiversity


There is growing interest in evaluating the impact that management intensity of agroecosystems has on animal communities and their ecological functions. Dung beetles are a highly used focal taxon for assessing the effects of anthropogenic disturbances and management practices on biodiversity. In the Lacandona rainforest region in southern Mexico, we quantified several metrics of the dung beetle community (number of species, number of individuals, total biomass, mean beetle size) and four of their ecological functions (dung removal, soil excavation, seed dispersal, seed exhumation) in conserved rainforest and three agroforestry systems with different management intensities: rustic cocoa, polyculture cocoa, and rubber monoculture. We also assessed the correlation between dung removal and the other functions, as well as the relationships between functions and community metrics. Land-use type affected the dung beetle communities as well as their functions, with negative effects on response variables in the most intensely managed agroecosystems (polyculture cocoa and rubber). Rustic cocoa had values similar to those of the conserved forest for all functions and community metrics, except the mean number of species per trap. Dung removal was correlated with the other ecological functions. The mean number of species per trap was significantly associated with all four functions. In our study region rustic cocoa plantations favor the maintenance of a high proportion of dung beetle species and maintain their ecological functions. Our findings corroborate that agroecosystems with less intense management may contribute to buffering the effects of landscape homogenization caused by more intensely managed agroecosystems, such as rubber plantations.


Agroecosystem Anthropogenic landscape Biodiversity conservation Rubber Scarabaeinae Shade cocoa 



We are thankful to SEMARNAT and CONANP for issuing the necessary permits (SGPA/DGVS/03075/13; Oficio No. REBIMA/009/12) and facilitating access to the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve. For assistance in the field, we thank Rafael Lombera, Miguel Miranda, Isaías Lombera, and Isidro López Lira. We thank one associate editor, three anonymous reviewers and Mary Ann Hall for thoughtful comments and editorial corrections that helped us improve the manuscript. We thank Pedro Luna for his valuable help and advice in data analyses. We are thankful to CONACyT for providing a graduate study fellowship to CS-H (245258) and the Industrial University of Santander’s for a post-doctoral fellowship to CS-H. Research was funded through grants to EA by CONACyT (SEP-CONACyT 2010-152884) and DGAPA-UNAM (PAPIIT, IN-207711).

Author contributions

CS-H, EA and FE formulated the research idea. CS-H and EA designed the experiments, with contributions from FE. CS-H and DAZ conducted all fieldwork. CS-H, EA and FE analyzed the data and wrote the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10531_2018_1542_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (150 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 150 kb)


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Escuela de BiologíaUniversidad Industrial de SantanderBucaramangaColombia
  2. 2.Instituto de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas y SustentabilidadUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMoreliaMexico
  3. 3.Centro de Investigación La SuizaCorporación Colombiana de Investigación AgropecuariaRionegro-SantanderColombia
  4. 4.Red de EcoetologíaInstituto de Ecología, A.C.XalapaMexico

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