Bison Beetle ProjectIn ecosystems with large mammals, dung beetles are a crucial component of the nutrient cycle by being responsible for breaking up dung and reintegrating dung portions into the soil. The dung beetle fauna of the North American plains is currently rather poor, is heavily invaded by European species, and does not seem capable of dung recycling at a significant scale. When 30 to 60 million bison had roamed the Great Plains 200 years ago and produced at least 130 to 260 billion dung pats per year, a more abundant and efficient dung beetle fauna can be assumed. If the presence of bison in an area results in a recovering dung beetle fauna with a higher portion of native species, bison herds can have positive implications on the maintenance of soil quality in rangelands.
We will learn from this eight-year project whether the dung beetle fauna in a prairie area changes after reintroduction of bison. We also hope to determine similarities or differences in the dung beetle fauna of (introduced) cattle and (native) bison. The project had already contributed to a study on the common red-winged Aphodius, which turned out to be two species. The fieldwork for our initial eight-year study ended in 2015, but sorting and identification are still ongoing. Stay tuned.