Date of Award
Master of Science (MS) in Biology
Dr. Lori Tolley-Jordan
Global insect decline has been linked to urbanization, most notably by habitat fragmentation. These insects perform important ecological functions such as pollination, managing pests, and decomposing carrion to recycle nutrients back into the environment. Despite the importance of nutrient recycling behavior displayed by carrion-associated beetles, little research has been done on them in the southeastern US. Previous studies have found a relationship between urbanization, less favorable environmental conditions, carrion availability, and decreased insect diversity. However, no studies have been conducted in the southeastern United States on the relationship of these beetles to their environment despite having the highest rates of urbanization. The purpose of my research was to investigate the landscape variables and habitat variables that influence the carrion-associated beetle assemblages and their obligate phoretic mites found on those beetles in the southeastern US. Results from the landscape variable analyses showed considerable range in percent urban cover, patch size, and habitat heterogeneity across the 11 sites. Microhabitat variables were similar across all sites. Results of beetle and mite collections yielded a total of 263 beetles in 20 species and 40 mites of one species with similar evenness values across all sites. PCA and multiple regression analysis did not show significant relationships to environmental conditions. While these findings suggest that carrion associated ground beetles and their mites are not affected by fragmented habitats, caveats to this study include a limited number of sites, low beetle detection, and low intensity of developed landscape as in a major metropolitan area.