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Keywords:

  • Acacia;
  • assemblages;
  • convergence;
  • dune;
  • dung;
  • forest;
  • post-mining;
  • restoration;
  • South Africa

Abstract In Maputaland, South Africa vegetative and microclimatic changes on mined dunes drive the composition of the dung beetle fauna toward convergence with that in natural dune forest on unmined dunes. We assessed the pattern of these changes using a 23-year vegetational chronosequence on mined dunes, which passes from grassland (approximately 1 year) to open Acacia shrubland thicket to Acacia karroo-dominated woodland (approximately 9 years). Across this sequence, which represents successional stages in the restoration of dune forest, there was a sequential trend toward convergence in dung beetle species composition in both the entire species complement and, particularly, in shade specialist species. However, species abundance patterns showed a trend toward convergence only in early chronosequence Acacia woodland, followed by a decline in similarity between dung beetle assemblages of older Acacia woodland and unmined natural forest. This trend toward divergence was common both to the entire species complement, which includes widespread taxa, and to species endemic to Maputaland or the east coast. These trends in similarity and dissimilarity between dung beetle assemblages closely parallel the greater physiognomic and microclimatic similarity between early Acacia woodland and natural forest and the relative dissimilarity of older Acacia woodland. In conclusion, although percentage similarities between dung beetle assemblages of approximately 12-year woodland and natural forests were comparable with those between each natural forest stand, decline in similarity in older woodland stands suggests that lasting convergence in dung beetle species abundance will only be attained once the Acacia woodland is replaced by secondary natural forest.