Dingo rules - both kangaroos and nutrient supplies.

The Outback is not the first place you expect some great research, but the discovery that dingoes affect the whole ecosystem of Australias back yard is educational for many and instructive for all. The cycling of nutrients is always studied with respect to the bottom end of the food chain. Here the influence on the intensity and spatial organisation of herbivory (thats kangaroos) proves just how useful top predators such as the dingo are in reality.

Basic services are provided to ecosystems by producers and myriad action by the microflora and microfauna. They cycle all the important materials and store carbon but the vegetation is heavily influenced by the abundance of consumers. A trophic cascade exists when predators limit herbivores plant consumption. This of course can simply be through fear of predation (non-lethal), or by lethal hunting.

Criticism of trophic cascade theory lies in the lack of experimental evidence and possibilities of other factors influencing the herbivory, but the great dingo fence provides superb experimental possibilities. Built between 1900 and 1960 to reduce sheep losses in SE Australia, it stretches for an amazing 5600km (thats 3,480 miles, Mr Trump- just as a guide!) Shooting and poisoning (with sodium fluoroacetate) are well-recognised as contributory factors to the reduction in dingo populations that continues to this day.

Despite this, the wild dog species, mixed with many domestic hybrids, is quite common in the NW of Queensland and South Australia. The study areas took full advantage of the rarity of dingoes SE of the fence and these common dingoes in the Strzelecki Desert area. Sand dunes and clay areas receive <250mm of rain annually while the vegetation is characteristically of the Sand Plain Mulga Shrubland community…