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Sci Rep. 2016 Jan 5;6:18140. doi: 10.1038/srep18140.

The role of dung beetles in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from cattle farming.

Author information

1
Spatial Foodweb Ecology Group, Department of Agricultural Sciences, PO Box 27, Latokartanonkaari 5, FI-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland.
2
Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PS, United Kingdom.
3
Environmental Change Institute, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3QY, UK.
4
Department of Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Box 7044, 750 07 Uppsala, Sweden.
5
European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC), Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Via Enrico Fermi 2749, 21027 Ispra, Italy.

Abstract

Agriculture is one of the largest anthropogenic sources of greenhouse gases (GHGs), with dairy and beef production accounting for nearly two-thirds of emissions. Several recent papers suggest that dung beetles may affect fluxes of GHGs from cattle farming. Here, we put these previous findings into context. Using Finland as an example, we assessed GHG emissions at three scales: the dung pat, pasture ecosystem, and whole lifecycle of milk or beef production. At the first two levels, dung beetles reduced GHG emissions by up to 7% and 12% respectively, mainly through large reductions in methane (CH4) emissions. However, at the lifecycle level, dung beetles accounted for only a 0.05-0.13% reduction of overall GHG emissions. This mismatch derives from the fact that in intensive production systems, only a limited fraction of all cow pats end up on pastures, offering limited scope for dung beetle mitigation of GHG fluxes. In contrast, we suggest that the effects of dung beetles may be accentuated in tropical countries, where more manure is left on pastures, and dung beetles remove and aerate dung faster, and that this is thus a key area for future research. These considerations give a new perspective on previous results, [corrected] and suggest that studies of biotic effects on GHG emissions from dung pats on a global scale are a priority for current research.

PMID:
26728164
PMCID:
PMC4700445
DOI:
10.1038/srep18140
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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