Dr Eleanor Slade is an ecologist, whose research focusses on the challenges and opportunities associated with conservation, management, and restoration of tropical forest landscapes. She has 16 years’ experience working in the rainforests and oil palm plantations of Malaysia, Sumatra, Philippines, Belize, and Brazil, and the woodlands and agricultural systems of Finland and the UK. Her research focuses on the links between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, with a particular emphasis on invertebrate diversity and community interactions. She is currently the consortium co-ordinator of the Land-use Options for Maintaining BiOdiversity and eKosystem functions (LOMBOK) project, and a PI on the UNDP-GEF biodiversity in multiple-use forest landscapes project, both based in Sabah, Malaysia. Recently, she has contributed the development of policy and best practice in the oil palm industry and among government agencies engaged with land-use planning in Sabah. She is also involved in the Riparian Ecosystem Restoration in Tropical Agriculture (RERTA) Project in Sumatra, which is experimentally testing how to restore riparian buffers in oil palm.
Dung beetles are a diverse and abundant group, are sensitive to habitat modification, have tight links to other taxa, such as mammals, and are relatively easy to study. Moreover, they provide a wealth of ecosystem functions and services, such as parasite control, nutrient cycling, secondary seed dispersal, and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
In this seminar, I will explore why dung beetles are excellent taxa for studying biodiversity-ecosystem functioning relationships. Using work I have been involved in from tropical forests and oil palm landscapes in Malaysia and Indonesia, and from agricultural landscapes in the UK and Finland, I will illustrate the different scales at which these relationships can be explored, and how they can contribute to policy and management of production landscapes. I will then explore some of the new areas of research which are emerging using dung beetles to study ecological interaction networks and their vulnerability under environmental change. I will introduce the novel approaches we have been applying to address questions of fundamental importance to our understanding of the causes and consequences of species extinctions on ecological interaction networks, and the cascading effects for ecosystem functioning in tropical forests and agricultural landscapes.