Local and Regional Effects on Community Structure of Dung Beetles in a Mainland-Island Scenario

Understanding the ecological mechanisms driving beta diversity is a major goal of community ecology. Metacommunity theory brings new ways of thinking about the structure of local communities, including processes occurring at different spatial scales. In addition to new theories, new methods have been developed which allow the partitioning of individual and shared contributions of environmental and spatial effects, as well as identification of species and sites that have importance in the generation of beta diversity along ecological gradients. We analyzed the spatial distribution of dung beetle communities in areas of Atlantic Forest in a mainland-island scenario in southern Brazil, with the objective of identifying the mechanisms driving composition, abundance and biomass at three spatial scales (mainland-island, areas and sites). We sampled 20 sites across four large areas, two on the mainland and two on the island. The distribution of our sampling sites was hierarchical and areas are isolated. We used standardized protocols to assess environmental heterogeneity and sample dung beetles. We used spatial eigenfunctions analysis to generate the spatial patterns of sampling points. Environmental heterogeneity showed strong variation among sites and a mild increase with increasing spatial scale. The analysis of diversity partitioning showed an increase in beta diversity with increasing spatial scale. Variation partitioning based on environmental and spatial variables suggests that environmental heterogeneity is the most important driver of beta diversity at the local scale. The spatial effects were significant only at larger spatial scales. Our study presents a case where environmental heterogeneity seems to be the main factor structuring communities at smaller scales, while spatial effects are more important at larger scales. The increase in beta diversity that occurs at larger scales seems to be the result of limitation in species dispersal ability due to habitat fragmentation and the presence of geographical barriers.