Feral foxes, desert cats pose more threat to Aussie animals than climate change: expert

Source: Xinhua| 2017-11-01 14:15:54|Editor: Liangyu
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SYDNEY, Nov 1 (Xinhua) -- Introduced predators like foxes and cats pose more of a risk to Australia's native desert dwellers than climate change, a new research from an Australian ecologist at the University of Sydney has found.

Dr Aaron Greenville monitored 22 years of long term data on plants and animals in central Australia to project how changing rainfall and wildfire patterns, due to climate change, will influence desert wildlife.

"What we found was, yes indeed, there could be decreases in the cover of the dominant spinifex grass, and a resulting decrease in seeding," he said.

Although this will pose major threats to many animals like seed-eating rodents, the study suggests feral foxes and desert cats still pose more of a risk to the native wildlife.

"Some estimates have suggested that up to one in six species are at risk from climate change," Greenville said.

"But these existing threats could exaggerate the already negative effects from climate change."

Increases in the frequency and magnitude of large rainfall events over the last 100 years in the Simpson Desert has also lead to increases in wildfire, "as wildfires follow after rain," Greenville said.

"Predators can take advantage of more open habitats for hunting, which puts more pressure on native wildlife."

Interestingly, the answer to securing the existence of Australia's unique animals may rest with a native predator - the dingo.

"We found that if you remove the cat, fox and dingo (a native Australian canine), rodent numbers would increase by 3 percent," Greenville said.

"But if you remove just the cat and fox, our models show the rodent population will increase by 9 percent."

"This suggests the dingo plays a complex positive role for wildlife in arid Australia."