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Urbanization is an increasingly pervasive form of land transformation that reduces biodiversity of many taxonomic groups. Beetles (Order: Coleoptera) exhibit a broad range of responses to urbanization, likely due to the high functional diversity in this order. Carrion beetles (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 investigate 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. Additionally, we conducted a more in-depth study of the 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. Variation between species in body size, habitat specialization, and area of largest continuous forest tract also did not influence carrion beetle communities. Lastly, we found few significant differences between 10 carrion beetle relative abundance between the early 1970’s 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.
This is a preprint submission to PeerJ Preprints. The manuscript will also be submitted to PeerJ for consideration for publication after peer review.
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.
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