According to an international study, initiatives that use non-native tree species can have an impact on tropical insects in nearby forests. When applied to ecologically significant dung beetles, scientists from the University of Bristol and the Federal University of Western Pará in Brazil discovered that Eucalyptus plantation edge effects extend up to 800 metres into the interior of surrounding Amazonian forests.
Planting forests has become a common restoration approach as the world strives to counteract human-induced climate change. However, the findings, which were published today in Forest Ecology and Management, imply that alien tree plantations, while well-intentioned, can have a larger impact on the natural biodiversity of hyperdiverse tropical forests.
Edge effect study examines how biological populations or communities evolve at the intersection of two or more ecosystems in ecology. To learn more about the edge impact, the researchers drove to the Amazon Rainforest and collected over 3,700 dung beetles from 49 different species to see how Eucalyptus plantations affect insect biodiversity in nearby Amazonian forests.
“Our findings for dung beetles provide new insights into the relevance of understanding how proximity to exotic tree plantations can alter tropical forest biodiversity,” stated Dr. Filipe França, co-supervisor of the lead author and a professor at Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences.
He stated, “Edge effects were species-specific and varied across dung beetle responses. We found more dung beetle species further away from Eucalyptus plantations, for example, although certain species flourished and had higher abundances closer to the plantation margins.”
This suggests that some dung beetles near exotic tree plantations may be more vulnerable to changes in the forest environment than other edge-affiliated and generalist species.
“Understanding multi-species reactions to anthropogenic disturbances is critical for forest managers and conservation planners hoping to sustain forest-specialist biodiversity in native ecosystems across the tropics,” said Professor Rodrigo Fadini of the Federal University of Western Pará.
Maria Katiane Costa, Filipe França, Carlos Brocardo, and Rodrigo Fadini published “Edge effects from exotic tree plantations and environmental context drive dung beetle assemblages within Amazonian undisturbed forests” in Forest Ecology and Management.