Pessôa, M.B., Souza do Amaral, T., De Marco Júnior, P. & Hortal, J. (2023) Forest conversion into pasture selects dung beetle traits at different biological scales depending on species pool composition. Ecology and Evolution, 13, e9950.

The conversion of forests into open areas has large effects on the diversity and structure of native communities. The intensity of these effects may vary between regions, depending on the existence of native species adapted to open habitats in the regional pool or the time since habitat change. We assess the differences in species richness and functional diversity of dung beetle communities (Coleoptera: Scarabaeinae) between native forests and novel pasturelands of the Atlantic Forest and the Cerrado, two biomes with contrasting histories of human occupation in Brazil. We conducted standardized surveys in seven forest fragments and adjacent pastures in each region and measured 14 traits in individuals collected in each type of habitat at each particular site. We calculated functional richness, functional evenness, functional divergence, and community-weighted mean of traits for each area, and analyzed individual variation through nested variance decomposition and Trait Statistics. Communities were richer and more numerous at the Cerrado. We did not find any consistent relationship between functional diversity and forest conversion beyond the changes in species diversity. Although landscape changes were more recent at the Cerrado, the colonization of the new habitat by native species already adapted to open habitats lessens the functional loss in this biome. This indicates that habitat change’s effects on trait diversity depend on the regional species pool rather than on time since land conversion. Forest conversion effects were primarily due to internal filtering. The effects of external filtering only appear at the intraspecific variance level, with contrasting differences between the Cerrado, where traits related to relocation behavior and size are selected, and the Atlantic Forest, where selection operates for traits related to relocation behavior and flight. These results evidence the importance of considering individual variance to address the responses of dung beetle communities to forest conversion.