Abstract 1. Conventional cattle ranching with low plant diversity and a high dependence on chemical fertilisers and herbicides, simplifies ecosystems and negatively affects their functioning. In tropical regions, the cattle ranching systems that use fodder trees and shrubs along with grasses offer a useful landscape management tool that may contribute to the conservation of biodiversity and the stability of ecological processes.
2. Given the functional importance of dung beetles in natural and anthropogenic ecosystems, this study evaluates the recovery of some of the ecological services in which these insects play a role by comparing treeless improved pastures (IP) with those that have been converted into silvopastoral systems (SPS: two species of grass, Cynodon plectostachyus and Pannicum maximum, in association with Leucaena leucocephala trees) in a cattle ranching landscape of the Colombian Andes.
3. The results reveal an increment in the abundance of dung beetles in SPS and, as a consequence, an increase in dung, soil and seed removal, as well as a reduction in the number of adult flies and their larvae compared with IP.
4. This suggests that SPS offer suitable refuges for the dung beetle fauna that complement the role of protected forest remnants, riparian forests and live fences in conserving the integrity of key ecological processes in cattle ranching landscapes.