Dung decomposition and associated beetles in a fragmented temperate forest
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Habitat fragmentation may result in changes in species number and Population abundance among habitats that differ in area, structure, or edge characteristics. These changes, in turn, may result in alterations in ecosystem process such as decomposition of organic matter. Through an experimental approach, we compared the beetles assemblages associated with dung and decomposition of cow feces in a continuous portion of Maulino forest, forest fragments and in pine plantations that surround this forest and forest remnants. Abundance and richness of dung-associated beetles were lower in forest fragments compared to the continuous forest and pine plantations. However, dung decomposition was similar in these three habitats. Beetle abundance, species richness and decomposition did not vary along edges of forest fragments and pine plantations, but beetle abundance and decomposition rate varied on the border compared to the interior of the continuous forest. Thus, although beetle assemblage changes across the fragmented landscape, these variations in species richness and abundance did not translate into alterations of an ecosystem process such is dung-decomposition, as occurs in tropical forests. The beetle assemblage at pine plantations comprises only native species and dung decomposition was similar in both fragments and continuous forest. Therefore, pine plantations maintain at least partially the structural and functional biodiversity of the native fauna, connecting the native remnants throughout the landscape, a crucial factor in biodiversity conservation.