Australian Mammalogy Australian Mammalogy Society
Journal of the Australian Mammal Society
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Seven considerations about dingoes as biodiversity engineers: the socioecological niches of dogs in Australia

Peter J. S. Fleming A D , Benjamin L. Allen B and Guy-Anthony Ballard C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Vertebrate Pest Research Unit, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Forest Road, Orange, NSW 2800, Australia.

B The University of Queensland, School of Animal Studies, Warrego Highway, Gatton, Qld 4343, Australia. Present address: Vertebrate Pest Research Unit, NSW Department of Primary Industries, 32 Sulfide Street, Broken Hill, NSW 2880, Australia.

C Vertebrate Pest Research Unit, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Ring Road North, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: peter.fleming@industry.nsw.gov.au

Australian Mammalogy 34(1) 119-131 https://doi.org/10.1071/AM11012
Submitted: 30 March 2011  Accepted: 4 September 2011   Published: 9 January 2012

Abstract

Australian dingoes have recently been suggested as a tool to aid biodiversity conservation through the reversal or prevention of trophic cascades and mesopredator release. However, at least seven ecological and sociological considerations must be addressed before dog populations are positively managed.

  • Domestication and feralisation of dingoes have resulted in behavioural changes that continue to expose a broad range of native and introduced fauna to predation.

  • Dingoes and other dogs are classic mesopredators, while humans are the apex predator and primary ecosystem engineers in Australia.

  • Anthropogenic landscape changes could prevent modern dingoes from fulfilling their pre-European roles.

  • Dingoes are known to exploit many of the same species they are often presumed to ‘protect’, predisposing them to present direct risks to many threatened species.

  • The assertion that contemporary dog control facilitates the release of mesopredators disregards the realities of effective dog control, which simultaneously reduces fox and dog abundance and is unlikely to enable increases in fox abundance.

  • The processes affecting threatened fauna are likely a combination of both top-down and bottom-up effects, which will not be solved or reversed by concentrating efforts on managing only predator effects.

  • Most importantly, human social and economic niches are highly variable across the ecosystems where dingoes are present or proposed. Human perceptions will ultimately determine acceptance of positive dingo management.

Outside of an adaptive management framework, positively managing dingoes while ignoring these seven considerations is unlikely to succeed in conserving native faunal biodiversity but is likely to have negative effects on ecological, social and economic values.

Keywords: apex predators, Canis lupus dingo, free-ranging dogs, human values, mesopredator release hypothesis, reintroduction, threatened species, trophic cascade


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