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Keywords:

  • Africa;
  • beetle communities;
  • biodiversity conservation;
  • forest fragmentation;
  • fragment characteristics;
  • nature reserve

ABSTRACT

Very little is known about the diversity of arthropods in the fast-disappearing fragments of natural forests in sub-Saharan Africa. This study investigated: (1) the influence of forest fragment characteristics on dung beetle species richness, composition, abundance, and diversity; and (2) the relationship between dung beetle assemblages and rainfall pattern. Beetles were sampled through 12 mo using dung baited pitfall traps. A total of 18,073 dung beetles belonging to three subfamilies and 45 species were captured. The subfamily Scarabaeinae was the most abundant (99%) and species rich (89%). Fast-burying tunnellers (paracoprids) were the most dominant functional group. Catharsius sesostris, Copris nepos, and Heliocopris punctiventris were the three most abundant species, and had the highest contributions to dissimilarities between forests. With few exceptions, dung beetle abundance, species richness, and diversity were generally higher in larger forest fragments (100–150 ha) than in smaller ones (10–50 ha) and the nature reserve (1042 ha). Forest fragment size had a highly significant positive relationship with beetle abundance, but only when the nature reserve is excluded in the analysis. Dung beetle abundance and species richness showed direct weak relationships with litter depth (positive) and groundcover (negative) but not tree density, tree species richness, and fragment isolation distance. Dung beetle abundance and species richness were strongly correlated with monthly changes in rainfall. Results of this study indicate that forest fragments on agricultural lands in the Budongo landscape, especially medium-sized (100–150 ha) ones, represent important conservation areas for dung beetles.