1. Predators and trophic cascades
Globally, predators have strong ecosystem effects because they predate on other species. In Australia, dingoes (and other predators like devils and quolls) have important regulatory effects here.
For example, dingoes kill wallabies and kangaroos, which regulates their population abundance. Stable populations of kangaroos and wallabies means small and medium sized ground dwelling mammals have plenty of vegetation on which to feed and seek refuge from predators. The shifts in species abundance at different trophic levels are called ‘trophic cascades’.
Interestingly, dingoes also regulate the smaller red fox and possibly the feral cat too. When these smaller introduced predators are supressed, small and medium sized mammals vulnerable to fox and cat predation flourish in the presence of dingoes.
For my research, which is focussed on the forests of NSW, I am interested in unravelling and understanding the complex interactions between a top predator and its ecosystem. Because dingoes kill sheep they are lethally controlled in many parts of Australia. I’m able to capitalise on this by conducting my field research in areas where dingoes are baited (dingoes uncommon) and unbaited (dingoes common). The comparisons between these ecosystem snap-shots will form the basis for an upcoming publication.