Prey used by dingoes in a contested landscape: ecosystem service provider or biodiversity threat?
Morrant, DS and Wurster, CM and Johnson, CN and Butler, JRA and Congdon, BC, Prey used by dingoes in a contested landscape: ecosystem service provider or biodiversity threat?, Ecology and Evolution pp. 1-9. ISSN 2045-7758 (In Press) [Refereed Article]
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
that could be threatened by dingoes; however, 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 within our study areas. The most significant
prey species were northern brown bandicoots (Isoodon macrourus), canefield rats
(Rattus sordidus), and agile wallabies (Macropus agilis). All are common species associated
with relatively open grass/woodland habitats. Stable isotope analysis suggested
that prey species sourced their nutrients primarily from open habitats and that prey
choice, as identified by scat/stomach analysis alone, was a poor indicator of primary
foraging habitats. 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.