Quantifying the Ecosystem Services of Dung Beetles in a Restored Tallgrass Prairie
Whiston, Peyton I., 1997--
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Humans are highly dependent upon functional ecosystems for a wide variety of goods and services, known as ecosystem services. Through the decomposition of dung, dung beetles provide an ecosystem service valued at US$380 million per year in the United States. The decomposition of dung also aids in the cycling of nutrients, dispersal of seeds, and control of parasites in tallgrass prairies. The tallgrass prairies of North America are among the most threatened ecosystems in the world. The reinstatement of disturbance regimes, including bison grazing, are a key facet in the active management of restored and remnant tallgrass prairies, and the effects of these disturbances on both flora and fauna have been well studied. However, the effect of bison grazing and time since restoration on the ecosystem service of dung decomposition has not been studied in tallgrass prairies. At Nachusa Grasslands in Franklin Grove, Illinois, we studied dung decomposition rates in six restoration sites with varying time since restoration and bison presence. Dung decomposition rates varied with the age (time since restoration) of sites. Dung beetles were more abundant in bison-grazed sites, and dung decomposition was also greater in these sites. Further research will be able to determine the proportional role of individual beetle species in this critical ecosystem service.