• Coleoptera;
  • dispersal limitation;
  • forest fragmentation;
  • Peninsular Malaysia;
  • rarity;
  • regression tree;
  • Scarabaeidae;
  • species traits;
  • species–area relationship;
  • tree basal area


Aim  Using dung beetles (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae: Scarabaeinae) in a tropical land-bridge island system, we test for the small island effect (SIE) in the species–area relationship and evaluate its effects on species richness and community composition. We also examine the determinants of species richness across island size and investigate the traits of dung beetle species in relation to their local extinction vulnerability following forest fragmentation.

Location  Lake Kenyir, a hydroelectric reservoir in north-eastern Peninsular Malaysia.

Methods  We sampled dung beetles using human dung baited pitfall traps on 24 land-bridge islands and three mainland sites. We used regression tree analyses to test for the SIE, as well as species traits related to local rarity, as an indication of extinction vulnerability. We employed generalized linear models (GLMs) to examine determinants for species richness at different scales and compared the results with those from conventional linear and breakpoint regressions. Community analyses included non-metric multidimensional scaling, partial Mantel tests, nestedness analysis and abundance spectra.

Results  Regression tree analysis revealed an area threshold at 35.8 ha indicating an SIE. Tree basal area was the most important predictor of species richness on small islands (<35.8 ha). Results from GLMs supported these findings, with isolation and edge index also being important for small islands. The SIE also manifested in patterns of dung beetle community composition where communities on small islands (<35.8 ha) departed from those on the mainland and larger islands, and were highly variable with no significant nestedness, probably as a result of unexpected species occurrences on several small islands. The communities exhibited a low degree of spatial autocorrelation, suggesting that dispersal limitation plays a part in structuring dung beetle assemblages. Species with lower baseline density and an inability to forage on the forest edge were found to be rarer among sites and hence more prone to local extinction.

Main conclusions  We highlight the stochastic nature of dung beetle community composition on small islands and argue that this results in reduced ecosystem functionality. A better understanding of the minimum fragment size required for retaining functional ecological communities will be important for effective conservation management and the maintenance of tropical forest ecosystem stability.