Mike Letnic, Centre for Ecosystem Science/ University of New South Wales, Australia | October 25, 2018 - 14h30 | CIBIO-InBIO’s Auditorium, Campus de Vairão




Top predators often have positive effects on biological diversity owing to their key functional roles in regulating trophic cascades and other ecological processes. Their loss has been identified as a major factor contributing to the decline of biodiversity in both aquatic and terrestrial systems. Consequently, restoring and maintaining the ecological function of top-order predators is a critical global imperative. The dingo is Australia’s largest terrestrial predator. Their status is ambiguous owing to their relatively recent arrival on the continent, the damage they cause to livestock and their role as ecosystem architects. In this talk I will discuss the status and ecological role of dingoes, focusing particularly, on the strong regulatory effects they have on Australian ecosystems. A large body of research now indicates that dingoes regulate trophic cascades, particularly in arid Australia, and that the removal of dingoes results in an increase in the abundances and impacts of herbivores and an invasive mesopredator, the red fox. Trophic cascades associated with the removal of dingoes has been linked to widespread losses of small native mammals and ground nesting birds, the depletion of grass biomass and soil nutrients, woody shrub encroachment and shifts in the geomorphology of desert sand dunes.


Mike Letnic research is focused on the conservation, management and restoration of ecosystems. He is currently investigating new approaches to improve the outcomes of threatened species reintroductions, the utility of rewilding as an approach for ecosystem restoration, the role that top predators play in sustaining biodiversity and managing the impacts of introduced species including feral cats, foxes, feral goats and cane toads.


[Host: Joel Alves, Immunity and Emerging Diseases]


Image credits: Lyons et al. (2018) Journal of the Royal Society Interface