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Urbanization is an increasingly pervasive form of land transformation that reduces biodiversity of many taxonomic groups. Beetles exhibit a broad range of responses to urbanization, likely due to the high functional diversity in this order. Carrion beetles (Order: Coleoptera, Family: Silphidae) provide an important ecosystem service by promoting decomposition of small-bodied carcasses, and have previously been found to decline due to forest fragmentation caused by urbanization. However, New York City (NYC) and many other cities have fairly large continuous forest patches that support dense populations of small mammals, and thus may harbor relatively robust carrion beetle communities in city parks. In this study, we investigated carrion beetle community composition, abundance and diversity in forest patches along an urban-to-rural gradient spanning the urban core (Central Park, NYC) to outlying rural areas. We conducted an additional study focusing on comparing the current carrion beetle community at a single suburban site in Westchester County, NY that was intensively surveyed in the early 1970’s.We collected a total of 2,170 carrion beetles from eight species at 13 sites along this gradient. We report little to no effect of urbanization on carrion beetle diversity, although two species were not detected in any urban parks. Nicrophorus tomentosus was the most abundant species at all sites and seemed to dominate the urban communities, potentially due to its generalist habits and shallower burying depth compared to the other beetles surveyed. Variation between species in body size, habitat specialization, and % forest area also did not influence carrion beetle communities. Lastly, we found few significant differences in relative abundance of 10 different carrion beetle species between 1974 and 2015 at a single site in Westchester County, NY, although two of the rare species in the early 1970’s were not detected in 2015.These results indicate that NYC’s forested parks have the potential to sustain carrion beetle communities and the ecosystem services they provide.
Version 2 incorporates revisions suggested by three reviewers of our original PeerJ submission. We have included a few additional analyses, and improved the Discussion section.
Hill’s True Diversity numbers; q=0, q=1 and q=2 calculated for comparison of species diversity indices. Equations retrieved from (Jost 2006).
Raw data on carrion beetles collected at 13 sites along an urban-to-rural gradient
This file includes a single entry for every individual carrion beetle collected during this study, including information on species, site (codes follow Table 1 in the manuscript), site coordinates, and Start and End dates of the surveys in which the beetle was collected.