ABSTRACT

The 5500 km long dingo barrier fence (DBF) is a boundary at which the goal of dingo control programs shifts from management to elimination. Since 1980 ecologists have used the discrepancies in dingo densities across the DBF to study the ecological role of Australia’s largest terrestrial predator.

We used drone imagery, ground based shrub and tree counts, and camera trap footage to test our hypothesis that there are alternate states in plant, bird and mammal assemblages on either side of the DBF. We found that shrubs and trees were twice as dense where dingoes were rare, and 28 % of shrub and tree species, 78 % of mammal species, and 14 % of bird species recorded were significantly more likely to occur on one side of the DBF than the other.

We provide the first comprehensive snapshot of how flora and fauna assemblages differ across the DBF. This study adds to literature demonstrating that the removal of the dingo has led to profound shifts in the shrub, mammal and bird assemblages in arid Australia. Any expansion of dingo control in arid Australia must be considered against the far-reaching consequences for ecosystem assembly associated with the removal of a top predator.

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