Charles Sturt University
Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation

Studying dung beetles in field experiments

Research at Charles Sturt University and localfarms aims to increase our knowledge of the ecological benefits from the introduction and establishment of introduced dung beetles.

PhD candidate Long MaCharles Sturt PhD student Mr Long Ma, from the Graham Centre, has begun field experiments as part of the Dung Beetle Ecosystems Engineers project.

He’s investigating the impact of introduced dung beetle species activity on soil properties, soil microbial populations and pasture plants growth.

The project currently has seven sites in three states examining the dung incorporation of two beetles, one winter active and the other spring active.

Mr Ma said he’s excited to begin the field work in three locations across the Riverina, including Wagga Wagga, Culcairn and Gundagai.

“The mesocosm experiments in progress are evaluating dung pad decomposition, soil nutrient and organic carbon changes as well as pasture growth,” he said.

“My research is expected to quantify dung beetle benefits to soil conditions and pasture growth which will provide knowledge base to livestock producers and help management decisions to minimise operation costs.”

Mr Ma’s research is supervised by Charles Sturt Professor Leslie Weston, Professor Geoff Gurr, Associate Professor Phil Eberbach, Dr Paul Weston and Dr Russ Barrow.

A lysimeter experiment at Charles Sturt in Wagga Wagga is also looking at impact of dung beetles on soil properties and microbial numbers, including the presence of E. coli in soil water as it percolates over time.

soil sampling“Dung is typically rapidly shredded and removed from the soil surface as dung beetles tunnel and bury it over time,” Professor Weston said.

“This research is gathering information about the impact of dung beetle activity on soil ecosystem services and also the transport of soil water contaminants through various soil types.”

As well as quantifying the ecosystem services and economic impacts of dung beetles the DBEE project is introducing new dung beetles to fill gaps in the distribution in southern Australia.

The research team is currently monitoring the numbers and performance of dung beetle species at more than 100 sites across NSW, WA, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia.

Research on dung beetles is led by Charles Sturt through funding from Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) through the Australian Government Department of Agriculture’s Rural Research &Development for Profit program.

The project is supported by eight partner organisations: The University of Western Australia, CSIRO, Manaaki Whenua-Landcare Research, the University of New England, Dung Beetle Solutions International, Warren Catchments Council, Mingenew-Irwin Group and the Western Australian Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.

 

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