Excluding Dingoes Bad for the Environment

  Last updated May 11, 2017 at 3:27 pm

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A study either side of the Dingo Fence has revealed that the environment suffers when you get rid of the native dog.


Research published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B and conducted by a team from the University of New South Wales shows that excluding dingoes allows kangaroo numbers to explode which, in turn, depletes the quality of the soil in dingo-excluded areas.


The dingo fence was erected over 100 years ago to keep dingoes out of eastern Australia. It runs for about 5600 kilometres across South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland. While dingoes are common west of the fence, they are rare on the eastern side due to intensive poisoning, trapping and shooting over many decades.


The researchers studied four sites over four years looking at a national park and a pastoral site on each side of the fence in the Strzelecki Desert.


They counted dingoes and kangaroos at night as well as collecting dingo scats to determine what they ate. They also measured levels of phosphorus, nitrogen and carbon in the soil.


Kangaroo numbers were high on the “inside” of the fence where dingoes were rare, with just one dingo and 3245 kangaroos spotted. “Outside” the fence they counted 85 dingoes and only eight kangaroos.


They also found that overgrazing by large numbers of kangaroos on the eastern side of the fence reduced the vegetation cover. This led to lower levels of phosphorus, nitrogen and carbon in the soil, compared with areas where dingoes were common and kangaroos were rare on the western side.


The researchers conclude that greater control of kangaroo numbers is needed across a third of the Australian continent where dingoes are rare, to reduce damage on ecosystems.



Image credit (both): Charlotte Mills/UNSW


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About the Author

Paul Willis
Paul is a respected leader in the science community with an impressive career in science. He has a background in vertebrate palaeontology, studying the fossils of crocodiles and other reptiles. He also has a long history as a science communicator, with a career spanning as Director of The Royal Institution of Australia, presenter and host for Australia’s Science Channel, working for the ABC on TV programs such as Catalyst and Quantum as well as radio and online. He’s written books and articles on dinosaurs, fossils and rocks and is finding new ways to engage the people of Australia with the science that underpins their world. Follow him on Twitter @fossilcrox.

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The Royal Institution of Australia is an independent charity, and the sister organisation of the prestigious Royal Institution of Great Britain, tasked with promoting public awareness and understanding of science.


The Royal Institution of Australia is passionate about building and connecting communities engaged with science, and as such works closely with scientific organisations, institutions, universities from Australia, and leaders to inspire the next generation of innovators and to create a lasting legacy for Australia.


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