Biodiversity friend or foe: land use by a top predator, the dingo in contested landscapes of the Australian Wet Tropics

Morrant, Damian S., Johnson, Christopher N., Butler, James R.A., and Congdon, Bradley C. (2017) Biodiversity friend or foe: land use by a top predator, the dingo in contested landscapes of the Australian Wet Tropics. Austral Ecology, 42 (3). pp. 252-264.

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Abstract

Dingoes (Canis dingo) in the coastal lowlands of Australia's Wet Tropics (WT) are perceived as a major threat to biodiversity and subjected to broad-spectrum lethal control. However, evidence of their impacts is equivocal, and control programs generally ignore the ecological benefits that dingoes might provide. Previous diet analysis has shown that dingoes in the WT primarily prey on common, terrestrial mammals. However, little is known of dingo habitat use or prey acquisition in the region despite these activities having major implications for biodiversity conservation. We investigated land use by dingoes in the lowland WT to enable predictions of potential prey types, relative prey use and modes of prey acquisition. Nine dingoes were tracked for 3-6 months. Home ranges and resting areas were estimated using multiple estimators, and habitat use was analysed using compositional analysis and generalised additive models. Dingo ranging behaviour suggested that anthropogenic food subsidies were infrequently used. Each territory comprised several sclerophyll forest rest areas with an adjacent sugarcane-grassland high activity area. Individuals used each rest-activity area for extended durations before moving on to another. Sclerophyll and rainforests, which contain the fauna species of primary conservation concern, were generally used for rest/sleep, or movement between rest-activity areas. Activity patterns were consistent with dingoes hunting in open sugarcane-grassland habitats during daylight hours. Dingo activity was low in areas where fauna species of conservation concern occur, which suggests that dingoes do not pose a threat to their survival. Consequently, current broad-spectrum lethal control may have minimal or even negative biodiversity benefits. Maximising the ecosystem services provided by dingoes while simultaneously minimising their negative impacts requires a more targeted location-specific management approach, one that assesses and mitigates impacts specifically where background circumstances suggest particular packs may be either a conservation or economic threat.

Item ID: 44505
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1442-9993
Keywords: Canis dingo, contested landscapes, invasive species, land use, predator
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC), Australian Rainforest Foundation, Skyrail Rainforest Foundation (SRF), CSIRO, Cowan Grant Bursary, James Cook University, Terrain NRM, WV Scott Charitable Trust
Projects and Grants: ARC Linkage Project LP0882628
Date Deposited: 31 Aug 2016 04:55
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060201 Behavioural Ecology @ 80%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060207 Population Ecology @ 20%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960806 Forest and Woodlands Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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