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Title: Response of invertebrate communities to intensive management of improved pasture ecosystems
Author: Manning, Paul
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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The number of people on our planet is projected to rise to between 9.4 and 10 billion by 2050. Some estimates suggest that current levels of food production will need to double to feed this population. Increasing the intensity of food production on existing agricultural land will be a crucial element in meeting this goal, but practices associated with intensive management can cause biodiversity declines and erode the ecosystem functions that underpin production. My work explores agricultural intensification within the context of pasture-based cattle production. I focus on a variety of ecosystem functions supported by dung beetles (Coleoptera: Scarabaeoidea) and other dung-associated invertebrates. I investigate how variations in diversity, and chemical perturbations of veterinary anthelmintics affect the delivery of multiple ecosystem functions. I show that maintaining species-rich dung beetle assemblages has inconsistent benefits in providing multiple ecosystem functions. While dung beetles play an important role in supporting functioning in the short term, my work also reveals that their contributions may be less evident when considered over longer periods. Chemical perturbations caused by anthelmintic residues represent a significant threat to some invertebrate groups, but my experiments show that exposure does not always translate into an immediate reduction in ecosystem functioning. While use of anthelmintic products with relatively low toxicological risk did not cause obvious reductions in function, my work shows exposure can have significant consequences for the conservation of sensitive species. Overall, my work highlights the need for multigenerational studies, mathematical modelling, and careful consideration of sublethal effects to assess fully the risks of anthelmintic residues in the pasture environment. Furthermore, the emphasis on dung beetles (rather than other dung-associated invertebrates) in the existing literature neglects potentially important functional benefits provided by other taxa, such as earthworms. As the global human population continues to expand, it is important that we find sustainable ways to produce food while simultaneously conserving biodiversity. As loss of biodiversity in agricultural ecosystems does not always have functional consequences, it is important that wider justifications for conservation remain integrated into agricultural policy and practice.
Supervisor: Lewis, Owen ; Beynon, Sarah Sponsor: Rhodes Trust
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: ecology ; agriculture ; biodiversity ; dung beetles