As clear as mud: a critical review of evidence for the ecological roles of Australian dingoes

Allen, Benjamin L. ORCID: and Fleming, Peter J. S. and Allen, Lee R. and Engeman, Richard M. and Ballard, Guy and Leung, Luke K.-P. (2013) As clear as mud: a critical review of evidence for the ecological roles of Australian dingoes. Biological Conservation, 159 (March). pp. 158-174. ISSN 0006-3207


Top-predators have been reported to have an important role in structuring food webs and maintaining ecological processes for the benefit of biodiversity at lower trophic levels. This is thought to be achieved through their suppressive effects on sympatric mesopredators and prey. Great scientific and public interest surrounds the potential use of top-predators as biodiversity conservation tools, and it can often be difficult to separate what we think we know and what we really know about their ecological utility. Not all the claims made about the ecological roles of top-predators can be substantiated by current evidence. We review the methodology underpinning empirical data on the ecological roles of Australian dingoes (Canis lupus dingo and hybrids) to provide a comprehensive and objective benchmark for knowledge of the ecological roles of Australia’s largest terrestrial predator. From a wide variety of methodological flaws, sampling bias, and experimental design constraints inherent to 38 of the 40 field studies we assessed, we demonstrate that there is presently unreliable and inconclusive evidence for dingoes’ role as a biodiversity regulator. We also discuss the widespread (both taxonomically and geographically) and direct negative effects of dingoes to native fauna, and the few robust studies investigating their positive roles. In light of the highly variable and context-specific impacts of dingoes on faunal biodiversity and the inconclusive state of the literature, we strongly caution against the positive management of dingoes in the absence of a supporting evidence-base for such action.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Files associated with this item cannot be displayed due to copyright restrictions.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Institute for Agriculture and the Environment
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Institute for Agriculture and the Environment
Date Deposited: 07 Jul 2016 00:38
Last Modified: 25 May 2017 05:50
Uncontrolled Keywords: biodiversity conservation; experimental design; mesopredator release; relative abundance indices; threatened fauna; trophic cascades
Fields of Research (2008): 05 Environmental Sciences > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050299 Environmental Science and Management not elsewhere classified
Fields of Research (2020): 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410499 Environmental management not elsewhere classified
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): D Environment > 96 Environment > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960899 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity of Environments not elsewhere classified
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