The application of an ecosystem services framework to estimate the economic value of dung beetles to the U.K. cattle industry

Sarah Beynon, Warwick A. Wainwright, Michael Christie

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Abstract

1. The DEFRA ecosystem services framework was implemented in an entomological context to provide preliminary estimates of the economic value of four key ecosystem service benefits delivered by dung beetles (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae, Geotrupidae) to the U.K. cattle industry and individual cattle farmers. These benefits included (i) reduced pest flies; (ii) reduced gastrointestinal parasites; (iii) reduced pasture fouling and (iv) increased soil nutrients.

2. A mesocosm experiment was carried out to quantify the impacts of anthelmintic treatment on dung removal by dung beetles when (i) cattle were excreting anthelmintics (which affect dung beetles) in a sufficient concentration to impact dung beetles and (ii) when cattle were not excreting dung containing anthelmintics (which affect dung beetles) in a sufficient concentration to impact dung beetles.

3. Inferring from our mesocosm experiment and existing data, the value of the benefits of dung beetles under current farming practices (and current anthelmintic usage) was estimated. We estimated the potential economic benefits if dung beetles were protected (i) under all entry-level agri-environment schemes; (ii) under organic schemes; or (iii) if farmers stopped treating adult cattle with anthelmintics during the grazing season.

4. While these estimates are preliminary, and should not be treated as definitive values, we suggest that dung beetles may be currently saving the U.K. cattle industry c. £367 million each year: c. £354 million in conventional systems and c. £13 million in organic systems. Annual benefits per cow are greater in organic systems (£43.47) compared with conventional systems (£37.42).

5. Protecting dung beetles under agri-environment schemes could save the U.K. cattle industry an additional £40.2 million year−1 (£4.36 per cow), while protecting dung beetles under organic schemes could save £378 k year−1 (£1.26 per cow). The cessation of, largely unnecessary, treatment of adult cattle with anthelmintics could save the U.K. cattle industry an additional £6.2 million year−1 (£1.40 per cow) in addition to savings on the anthelmintics themselves.

6. These estimates are based on a large number of underlying assumptions and, thus, may be overestimating or underestimating the economic value of ecosystem services delivered by dung beetles.

7. The potential for using the DEFRA ecosystem services framework in an entomological context is highlighted. These estimates emphasise the contribution of dung beetles as key Ecosystem Service Providers (ESP's) within the U.K. cattle sector and, by extension, emphasise the importance of valuing supporting ecosystem services derived from invertebrates
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-135
JournalEcological Entomology
Volume40
Issue numberSupplement S1
Early online date25 Aug 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2015

Keywords

  • agriculture
  • anthelmintics
  • biodiversity
  • cattle
  • decomposition
  • DEFRA ecosystem services framework
  • dung beetles
  • economic valuation
  • ecosystem functioning
  • ecosystem services
  • livestock
  • soil

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