Prey use by dingoes in a contested landscape: ecosystem service provider or biodiversity threat?

Morrant, Damian S., Wurster, Christopher M., Johnson, Christopher N., Butler, James R.A., and Congdon, Bradley C. (2017) Prey use by dingoes in a contested landscape: ecosystem service provider or biodiversity threat? Ecology and Evolution, 7 (21). pp. 8927-8935.

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In Australia, dingoes (Canis lupus dingo) have been implicated in the decline and extinction of a number of vertebrate species. The lowland Wet Tropics of Queensland, Australia is a biologically rich area with many species of rainforest-restricted vertebrates that could be threatened by dingoes, but the ecological impacts of dingoes in this region are poorly understood.

We determined the potential threat posed by dingoes to native vertebrates in the lowland Wet Tropics using dingo scat/stomach content and stable isotope analyses of hair from dingoes and potential prey species.

Common mammals dominated dingo diets. We found no evidence of predation on threatened taxa or rainforest specialists. The most significant prey species were northern brown bandicoots (Isoodon macrourus), canefield rats (Rattus sordidus), and agile wallabies (Macropus agilis). All are associated with open habitats.

Stable isotope analysis suggested that prey species sourced their nutrients primarily from open grass/woodland habitats and that prey choice, as identified by scat/stomach analysis alone, was a poor indicator of primary foraging habitats.

Synthesis and applications. In general, we find that prey use by dingoes in the lowland Wet Tropics does not pose a major threat to native and/or threatened fauna, including rainforest specialists. In fact, our results suggest that dingo predation on ‘pest’ species may represent an important ecological service that outweighs potential biodiversity threats. A more targeted approach to managing wild canids is needed if the ecosystem services they provide in these contested landscapes are to be maintained, while simultaneously avoiding negative conservation or economic impacts.

Item ID: 49709
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2045-7758
Keywords: anthropogenic, Bayesian mixing model, Canis lupus dingo, carnivore, conservation, diet, habitat use, predator, rainforest, stable isotope
Additional Information:

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. © 2017 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC LP0882628
Date Deposited: 04 Oct 2017 00:24
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310301 Behavioural ecology @ 80%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310308 Terrestrial ecology @ 20%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960806 Forest and Woodlands Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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