Insect reproductive behaviors are important mediators of carrion nutrient release into soil.

Affiliation

Woelber-Kastner BK(1), Frey SD(2), Howard DR(2), Hall CL(2)(3).
Author information:
(1)College of Life Science and Agriculture, University of New Hampshire, Spaulding Hall Rm G37; 38 Academic Way, Durham, NH, 03824, USA. [Email]
(2)College of Life Science and Agriculture, University of New Hampshire, Spaulding Hall Rm G37; 38 Academic Way, Durham, NH, 03824, USA.
(3), 2415 Eisenhower Ave, Alexandria, VA, 22314, USA.

Abstract

Current declines in terrestrial insect biomass and abundance have raised global concern for the fate of insects and the ecosystem services they provide. However, the ecological and economic contributions of many insects have yet to be quantified. Carrion-specializing invertebrates are important mediators of carrion decomposition; however, the role of their reproductive activities in facilitating this nutrient pulse into ecosystems is poorly understood. Here, we investigate whether insects that sequester carrion belowground for reproduction alter soil biotic and abiotic properties in North American temperate forests. We conducted a field experiment that measured soil conditions in control, surface carrion alone, and beetle-utilized carrion treatments. Our data demonstrate that Nicrophorus beetle reproduction and development results in changes in soil characteristics which are consistent with those observed in surface carrion decomposition alone. Carrion addition treatments increase soil labile C, DON and DOC, while soil pH and microbial C:N ratios decrease. This study demonstrates that the decomposition of carrion drives soil changes but suggests that the behaviors of insect scavengers play an important role in the release of carrion nutrients directly into the soil by sequestering carrion resources in the ecosystem where they were deposited.