BRINGING BACK THE DINGO BOOSTS ECOSYSTEM BIODIVERSITY

From our landscape, to our indigenous animal and plant species, to our choice of salty spreads, Australia is a country known for its uniqueness.

Introduced species alter the Australian ecosystem.

It is this natural uniqueness that has been systematically destroyed since first settlement. The introduction of plants and animals has drastically changed the Australian landscape and consequently the history of many of our most treasured species. Australia now has the highest rate of animal extinctions in the world. A third of the global mammalian extinctions in the last 400 years have occurred on our own soil. This has been largely attributed to the introduction of foreign species.

The country is completely covered in introduced species such as rabbits, foxes, feral cats, camels, goats, donkeys and wild dogs just to name a few. It is now more common to see a rabbit in the countryside than it is to see a bandicoot; the native that fills the same ecological niche but has been outcompeted by the rabbit. Conversely, some natives are doing very well from human settlement. Land clearing and dingo culls have favoured the kangaroo’s grazing style of feeding, enabling their numbers to explode. The problem seems almost irreparable.

Once common, the Eastern-barred Bandicoot is now extinct on the Australian mainland.  Photography by Kellie Dene, My Wild Life. Permission given by photographer.
Title: Eastern-barred Bandicoot.
Once common, the Eastern-barred Bandicoot is now extinct on the Australian mainland.
Photography by Kellie Dene, My Wild Life. https://www.facebook.com/pages/My-Wild-Life/155756327911116?fref=photo Permission given by photographer.

 

Missing: an apex predator.

A study conducted at James Cook University has found a simple, home-grown solution to controlling pest species; the dingo.

In addition to land clearing, the problematic boom in meso-predators (smaller predators) and herbivores (native and introduced), has also been attributed to the noticeable absence of the dingo; a native apex predator. Comparable to the lions in Africa and the sharks in the ocean, dingoes are at the top of the Australian food chain. Like many other apex predators, humans have killed dingoes in large numbers. This killing has been rationalised as a way to protect livestock, humans, to keep dingo numbers ‘under control’. Dingoes have even by branded as ‘wild dogs’, implying that they are not part of the native landscape and therefore should be destroyed.

Dingoes restore order to the ecosytstem.

The study conducted in Queensland and New South Whales found that dingoes are actually a keystone species; an integral component of the ecosystem.

Now recognised its own species (Canis dingo), the study demonstrated that the dingo’s presence in the Australian landscape helps to sustain ecosystem biodiversity. It does this by regulating the number of meso-predators and herbivores. This prevents native animals such as kangaroos, wallabies and emus from becoming pests and reduces the number of introduced species such as goats, camels and rabbits.

Biodiversity has already been restored in areas where apex predators have been reintroduced. Primary research in Australia has found that kangaroo and wallaby numbers are lower (and not considered problematic) in areas where the dingo is present.

Title: Dingo dreaming Photographer: Doug Gimesy https://m2.facebook.com/profile.php?id=61056502399&ref=stream&__tn__=C Licensed under creative commons.
Title: Dingo dreaming
Ecosystem balance is regulated from the top down.
Photography by Doug Gimesy, https://m2.facebook.com/profile.php?id=61056502399&ref=stream&__tn__=C, Licensed under creative commons.

This is one program that can fairly easily boost biodiversity; strengthening the populations of many wonderful native species. All that is required is the cessation of dingo shooting. In conjunction with population and habitat rehabilitation programs, our native personalities may just have a fighting chance of surviving.


9 Responses to “BRINGING BACK THE DINGO BOOSTS ECOSYSTEM BIODIVERSITY”

  1. lisan-alarab.com

    Scientific Scribbles » BRINGING BACK THE DINGO BOOSTS ECOSYSTEM BIODIVERSITY

  2. ginam says:

    I don’t know about dingoes and wild dogs cross breeding, but that’s an interesting idea. Perhaps true wild dog populations would need to be controlled or culled, rather than dingo populations.
    Dingoes would probably preferentially eat bandicoots over rabbits as they are easier targets, however the theory proposes improved top-down regulation in general. As a result, the bandicoots would endure less predation by wild dogs and cats and have less competition for resources from similar herbivorous species such rabbits, rats and mice. This would give them more of a chance at surviving. Over-grazing by kangaroos and wallabies (the result of apex-predator release) would be minimised by the dingo controlling their numbers. This would enable flora regeneration, favouring successful reproduction and predator avoidance by the bandicoot and similar native species.

  3. gmgo says:

    you had me at the dingo puppy photo. I have heard that there are some problems with this theory. Off the top of my head I think there was an issue wight he dingos cross-breeding with wild dogs? And whats to stop the dingoes from eating all of the bandicoots instead of the rabbits?

  4. ginam says:

    It’s great to see the research taking more of an holistic approach to the ecosystem. It is really calling for us to rethink the way we see the Australian ecosystem and how we influence it.Thanks for your comments!

  5. smcarthur says:

    Ahhhhh so sad. We really haven’t done too well as a nation in preserving our unique flora and fauna.

    Our group project is on the Eastern Barred Bandicoot!! I think it’s really important to get the message out there that this is not ok. Before taking this subject I wouldn’t have thought twice about endangered animals like the Eastern Barred Bandicoot… but once people are aware they are more likely to care!

    Great work, very well communicated.

  6. rosannav says:

    I am writing my literature review on invasive species management and came across this a couple of weeks ago. Now I actually quite curious what happened if the dingo was released here. I don’t know if it is a bad idea because I don’t know why there was dingo fence build in the first place…

    @mlakidang, I think the rabbits became a problem after feral cats were removed from the island.

  7. hartnett says:

    Great post, and nice choice of images! Your post highlights the need for regulators to listen to the science on issues of biodiversity. The strength of the studies that you mention is the fact thay they take into account the complexity of ecosytems and predator/prey dynamics. For too long in Australia I think there’s been the kind of tunnel vision that comes from putting economic concerns first. I empathise with sheep farmers who need to protect their flocks and their livelihoods, but we have to start being future thinkers. Time and time again its been shown in diverse ecosystems around the globe that removal of an apex predator can have distrous flow-on effects. Thanks for drawing attention to the issue.

  8. oselan says:

    Nice post. Just remember what Jenny Gray said in the seminar about the increasing rate of animal extinction. It is important to take part in preserving the biodiversity we have now. So sad if they are extinct because of our wrong doing as what Jenny played the sound of the extinct species she recorded. Thanks

  9. mlakidang says:

    Interesting post mate. I watched the other day in tv the restoration program in Macquarie island takes years to recovery the island from the environmental problems caused by rabbits. The rabbits were also introduced in the past, but caused adverse impacts on environment.
    However, the island was declared as free from rabbits after spending lots of efforts and time.
    I saw every states and territories have their own policies and programs, which sometimes contradict with the federal government in term of managing invasive species. What do you think about that? Thanks