23 March, 2021

Understanding the effects of human disturbance on scorpion diversity in Brazilian tropical forests


Andre Lira and Stênio Foerster have together with several other researchers published several articles on scorpion ecology in late 2020 and in 2021. I have several of these on my desk waiting for time to read them, and I must apologize to you who send me articles that it sometime takes too much time before I blog about them. But time is limited these days, and blogging is unfortunately not my main job.

In the present article, Andre Lira and co-workers have studied the effects on human disturbance (mainly transforming the original habitats into agricultural land) on the scorpion populations. Interestingly, in their study the species richness was less sensitive to changes in landscape configuration than species composition and abundance. 

Studies like this are important for understanding the consequences of habitat destruction and transformation, and hopefully will be used by politicians and other decision makers who are responsible for protecting vulnerable habitats.

The effects of land use conversion on the maintenance of biodiversity remains a major issue in conservation biology. With this as context, recent studies have successfully evaluated the potential of scorpions as bio-indicators of human disturbance. Here, we explored this assumption to identify the effects of landscape structure on scorpion assemblages distributed in two tropical environments in Brazil, with different levels of human disturbance. Scorpions were collected from 28 sampling localities across the Atlantic Forest (n = 12) and Caatinga dry forest (n = 16), resulting in 3,781 specimens from 13 species, 5 genera, and 2 families. We found that scorpion species composition and abundance were more sensitive to changes in landscape configuration than was species richness. Additionally, scorpion assemblage responses were quite different between the two environments. From this observation we highlighted three main findings: (i) the Atlantic Forest assemblage possesses an abundance-dependent response to landscape; (ii) variation in species composition of Atlantic Forest and Caatinga were affected by landscape diversity and presence of croplands, respectively; (iii) the Atlantic Forest is inhabited by assemblages that are more sensitive to landscape changes than that is Caatinga.
Implications for insect conservation We argue that a site-dependent process may explain the effects of human activities on scorpion assemblages at local and regional scale. Moreover, we provide substantial information for decision-makers to support their conservation strategies for neglected ecosystems, such as those present in Caatinga and the Atlantic Forest.

Lira AFA, Foerster SIA, Salomão RP, Porto TJ, Albuquerque CMR, Moura GJB. Understanding the effects of human disturbance on scorpion diversity in Brazilian tropical forests. J Insect Conserv. 2021;25(1):147-58. [Subscription required for full text]

Thanks to Andre and Stenio for sending me their articles!

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