A comparison of conditions in the outback on either side of Australia’s dingo fence has revealed that extermination of these apex predators not only affects the abundance of other animals and plants, but also reduces the quality of the soil.
The UNSW study indicates greater control of kangaroo numbers is needed across a third of the Australian continent where dingoes are rare, to reduce damage on ecosystems.
“We have shown for the first time that the presence of dingoes is linked to healthier soils, because they suppress the numbers of kangaroos that graze on the vegetation,” says study senior author UNSW Associate Professor Mike Letnic.
The research by Associate Professor Letnic and his honours research student Timothy Morris is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
The dingo fence was erected more than a century ago to keep dingoes out of eastern Australia, and extends approximately 5600 kilometres across the states of South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland.
Dingoes are common on the western side of the fence, but rare on the other side, due to intensive control measures including poisoning, trapping and shooting over many decades. This latter area includes most of NSW and Victoria, and southern Queensland and southern South Australia.
“The fence provides a unique opportunity to test the effects of the removal of an apex predator on herbivore abundance, vegetation and nutrients in the…