Movement of forest-dependent dung beetles through riparian buffers in Bornean oil palm plantations.
Fragmentation of tropical forests is increasing globally, with negative impacts for biodiversity. In Southeast Asia, expansion of oil palm agriculture has caused widespread deforestation, forest degradation and fragmentation. Persistence of forest-dependent species within these fragmented landscapes is likely to depend on the capacity of individuals to move between forest patches. In oil palm landscapes, riparian buffers along streams and rivers are potential movement corridors, but their use by moving animals is poorly studied. We examined how six dung beetle species traversed riparian buffers connected to a continuous forest reserve area within an oil palm plantation in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. We used a mark-release-recapture study and a new Bayesian Joint Species Movement Modelling (JSMM) approach, extended to a continuous capture process model. Dung beetle species were fairly generalist in their habitat use, but two species showed a statistically supported preference for riparian buffer forest over oil palm, and one species showed a strong preference for forest reserve over riparian buffer, indicating the importance of forested areas within oil palm landscapes for some species. A land-use change simulation indicated that the loss of riparian buffers in oil palm will result in reduced movement by forest-dependent species. Synthesis and applications. Our results provide evidence for the use of riparian buffers in oil palm plantations for forest-dependent dung beetle species, strengthening the case for their retention, restoration and re-establishment. Furthermore, our study demonstrates the wider applicability of the Joint Species Movement Modelling (JSMM) framework to assess movement behaviour of species in fragmented landscapes, a vital tool for future forest and landscape management and conservation prioritisation exercises.