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Ecologically functional landscapes and the role of dingoes as trophic regulators in south-eastern Australia and other habitats


  • Mike Letnic,

  • Lynn Baker,

  • Brad Nesbitt


Large carnivores can play a pivotal role in maintaining healthy, balanced ecosystems. By suppressing the abundances and hence impacts of herbivores and smaller predators, top predators can indirectly benefit the species consumed by herbivores and smaller predators. Restoring and maintaining the ecosystem services that large carnivores provide has been identified as a critical step required to sustain biodiversity and maintain functional, resilient ecosystems. Recent research has shown that Australia's largest terrestrial predator, the Dingo (Canis lupus dingo), has strong effects on ecosystems in arid Australia and that these effects are beneficial for the conservation of small mammals and vegetation. Similarly, there is evidence from south-eastern Australia that dingoes suppress the abundance of macropods and red Fox (Vulpes vulpes). It is likely that dingoes in south-eastern Australia also generate strong indirect effects on the prey of foxes and macropods, as has been observed in the more arid parts of the continent. These direct and indirect effects of dingoes have the potential to be harnessed as passive tools to assist biodiversity conservation through the maintenance of ecologically functional dingo populations. However, research is required to better understand dingoes' indirect effects on ecosystems and the development of dingo management strategies that allow for both the preservation of dingoes and protection of livestock.