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Forskningsartikel2017Vetenskapligt granskadÖppen tillgång

Greenhouse gas emissions from dung pats vary with dung beetle species and with assemblage composition

Piccini, Irene; Arnieri, Fabrizio; Caprio, Enrico; Nervo, Beatrice; Pelissetti, Simone; Palestrini, Claudia; Roslin, Tomas; Rolando, Antonio


Cattle farming is a major source of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Recent research suggests that GHG fluxes from dung pats could be affected by biotic interactions involving dung beetles. Whether and how these effects vary among beetle species and with assemblage composition is yet to be established. To examine the link between GHGs and different dung beetle species assemblages, we used a closed chamber system to measure fluxes of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) from cattle dung pats. Targeting a total of four dung beetle species (a pat-dwelling species, a roller of dung balls, a large and a small tunnelling species), we ran six experimental treatments (four monospecific and two mixed) and two controls (one with dung but without beetles, and one with neither dung nor beetles). In this setting, the overall presence of beetles significantly affected the gas fluxes, but different species contributed unequally to GHG emissions. When compared to the control with dung, we detected an overall reduction in the total cumulative CO2 flux from all treatments with beetles and a reduction in N2O flux from the treatments with the three most abundant dung beetle species. These reductions can be seen as beneficial ecosystem services. Nonetheless, we also observed a disservice provided by the large tunneler, Copris lunaris, which significantly increased the CH4 flux - an effect potentially traceable to the species' nesting strategy involving the construction of large brood balls. When fluxes were summed into CO2-equivalents across individual GHG compounds, dung with beetles proved to emit less GHGs than did beetle-free dung, with the mix of the three most abundant species providing the highest reduction (-32%). As the mix of multiple species proved the most effective in reducing CO2-equivalents, the conservation of diverse assemblages of dung beetles emerges as a priority in agro-pastoral ecosystems.

Publicerad i

2017, Volym: 12, nummer: 7