The impact of the invasive fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, on dung beetle community composition and ecosystem services

Monday, November 11, 2013
Exhibit Hall 4 (Austin Convention Center)
Christen Steele , Biology Department, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL
Elizabeth Boughton , MacArthur Agroecology Research Center, Archbold Biological Station, Lake Placid, FL
Joshua R. King , Biological Science, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL
Grazing animals in Florida deposit over 20 million metric tons of dung per year, making dung a significant non-point source of pollution. Degradation of this dung occurs naturally, primarily due to Coleopterans of the families Scarabaeidae and Geotrupidae (hereafter dung beetles). Dung that is not degraded may be leached into water bodies and provides an incubation site for the pests and parasites of both humans and livestock. Thus, the optimization of the ecosystem services provided by dung beetles is a priority for not only the protection of terrestrial and aquatic biota, but the cattle industry itself. The non-native fire ant Solenopsis invicta has been observed to heavily utilize dung as a food resource and may be predating dung beetles. My research will utilize semi-natural and intensively managed pastures to determine how management driven differences in habitat alter dung beetle assemblages. I will also experimentally evaluate how pasture type and the presence or absence of the non-native Solenopsis invicta influence dung beetle community assembly and the ecosystem services of dung degradation and parasite suppression.