Predators and pest control

By Joern Fischer

The dingo in Australia is much the same thing biologically as the wolf in Europe — in fact, the two might be just different sub-species, not even different species. There’s a very nice story published today on this over at “The Conversation”, an Australian website.

Dingoes are quite controversial in Australia, as are wolves in Europe. The instill fear in people, who worry about their sheep, children, and general safety. An added problem in Australia is that the dingo is not a proper “native animal” — it was introduced, probably with Aboriginal people, a mere few thousand years ago.

Now the important bit: dingoes interact in food webs in complex ways, and they help to suppress populations of other so-called “meso-predators”. Some of those meso-predators in Australia are introduced, and major ecological problems in their own right, like the cat and fox. So, dingoes could be quite important ecologically.

This all does make me wonder about the role of wolves in the countries I now engage with most … Central Romania has lots of wolves, some shepherds report that they see them every week. Germany has a few wolves coming back now, as far as the west end of the country (they come from the eastern parts originally). What might be the effects of wolves on meso-predators in Europe? What are the differences in food webs, with and without wolves in Europe? — Frankly, I don’t know, but I’d be interested in comments on this.

Now — go read the dingo article here.

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4 thoughts on “Predators and pest control

  1. Hi Joern!

    Similar thoughts crossed my mind. Sweden’s wolf population is increasing. And, unfortunately, we’re getting an unhealthy level of emotion polarizing any discussion of their return. Annika and I come across this regularly through our work on Moose and associated interactions with hunters. It’s worth mentioning that in addition to top predator/mesopredator ratios, the abundance of ungulates here is also dramatically skewed with significant implications for forest restoration. In other words, the food web is warped from a variety of perspectives.

    You might be interested in the following research (conducted in Sweden), which indicates support for mesopredator release due to Lynx and wolf eradication, and that an interaction may be going on between site productivity and mesopredator release.

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1461-0248.2006.01010.x/abstract

    Also, a very nice review here, which indicates that mesopredator release is not an isolated phenomenon globally, highlights where most of the work has been done, and discusses a link with fragmentation in terrestrial systems.

    http://www.cof.orst.edu/leopold/papers/mesopredators.pdf

    Happy to discuss further.

    • Thanks Adam! I’m not surprised there is already good work on this, since indeed, there should be! The more interesting (from my perspective) that Romania still has all these processes intact (presumably), with bears and wolves abundant throughout our study area. Would be very nice to study the role of wolves in the food web in this system, perhaps in some kind of comparative way with a broadly similar system (but with a different history) elsewhere? Hm. Anyway, good food for thought, and thanks for the links!

  2. Hey Euan and Joern,
    There’s certainly enough potential here for us to chat further.
    Just note that Im in the field over the next couple of weeks so my email responses might be intermittent.
    All the best,
    Adam
    P.S. Thanks for the link Euan!

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