Human Land Use and Dung BeetlesAlmost every spot on earth shows signs of human influence, modification, or destruction. Human land use, be it agriculture, forestry, or urbanization, almost always leads to a reduction of the number of species that can persist in such areas. The species-rich dung beetles are suitable for studying the effects of land use because many species react early to changes in vegetation cover, microclimate, or provision of food resources. Since 1995, my teams of students and I have studied the ecology of dung beetles and the influence of human land use on dung beetle communities. In West and East Africa, in Ivory Coast and Kenya, we investigated the effects of agricultural practices, pasture, burning, logging, and urbanization. Our main sites in the Ivory Coast were situated in the Parc National de la Comoé, in the village of Bringakro, and in Abidjan, in collaboration with the Centre Suisse de Recherches Scientifiques and the Université d’Abobo-Adjamé. In Kenya, we worked in and around Kakamega Forest, in collaboration with ICIPE and the National Museums of Kenya. We are not continuing overseas fieldwork at the moment but are busy at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science working on the thousands of samples and hundreds of thousands of specimens collected in Africa. We will continue publishing results in the years to come.
Here in Colorado, our Scarab Survey, launched in 2007, will provide baseline data on the current distribution of scarab beetles and will compile historic data; this will allow us to determine the possible effects of human land use in the past and faunal changes in the future.