Grazing animals in Florida deposit over 20 million metric tons of dung per year, making dung a significant non-point source of pollution (extrapolated from Fincher, 1981). Degradation of this dung occurs naturally, primarily due to a diverse group of beetles (Order Coleoptera) primarily in the families Scarabaeidae and Geotrupidae(hereafter dung beetles). Dung that is not degraded becomes a non-point source of pollutants and may be leached into water bodies. Additionally, dung provides an incubation site for the pests and parasites of both humans and livestock. Thus, as dung beetles consume and degrade dung, they provide a multitude of ecosystem services by increasing the rate of dung decomposition in pasture ecosystems. The non- native fire ant Solenopsis invicta has been observed to frequently utilize dung as a site to forage for the larvae of other insects. Based on the known food preferences of S. invicta, dung beetle adults and larvae fit the profile of a potential food source. Whether the ecosystem services provided by dung beetles are being reduced, un-impacted, or potentially increased through complementarity is unclear. Thus, this project sought to first map the distribution of S. invicta within pasture habitats along a disturbance gradient. Next, a field experiment was employed to test whether the interaction between S. invicta and native dung beetle communities impacts the provisioning of two ecosystem services: rate of dung degradation and parasite suppression.
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Master of Science (M.S.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Steele, Christen, "Pasture Management, the Red Imported Fire Ant (Solenopsis invicta) and Dung Beetle Mediated Ecosystem Services" (2016). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2004-2019. 5130.