Dingoes could be key to controlling invasive species
CO-EXISTENCE with dingoes would help to preserve Australia's biodiversity and control invasive species, such as rabbits.
Recent Churchill Fellowship winner Dr Arian Wallach has worked with international researchers to determine the conservation status and ecological roles of large predators (animals over 15 kilos).
The study, published in 'Science', found that many large predator species were endangered.
"What surprised me was how little we know. The effect of big predators cascades through ecosystems," the Mt Perry scientist said.
Dingoes were one of the four most-researched large predators - and only since 2006, coinciding with the start of Dr Wallach's PhD.
"What happens to the dingo could influence our ecosystem so profoundly," she explained.
"In order to conserve bilbies, we eradicate foxes. Why not conserve dingoes instead?"
Her research follows the 'green world hypothesis'.
"In the bottom-up view, plants managed to defend themselves with toxins and thorns, so herbivores will die of disease, for example," Dr Wallach explained.
"In the top-down approach, herbivores will breed up and overcome plants, and predators are needed to keep them in check."
She would dearly love to find a 'dingo utopia' - "a place where predators have been in the system for at least 10 years or more" - but despaired of finding one as dingoes are killed on aboriginal and pastoral land, and in national parks.
While her focus remains firmly on the dingo, Dr Wallach said the ecological role of the dingo - and its conservation or disappearance - would be similar to other large predators.
She numbers among the scientists calling for an international Global Large Carnivore Initiative to not only protect and restore large carnivore populations - but to co-exist with them.
"I wanted to promote species, not be at war with them."