Ecosystem engineers

Project title: Cascading effects of the Australian native threatened ecosystem engineers on soil processes.

Many Australian native digging mammals – such as the burrowing bettong Bettongia lesueur, brush-tailed bettong B. penicillata and greater bilby Macrotis lagotis – are now so rare that they are not able to fulfil their ecological function in the landscape.

Although low in abundance now, these species potentially have a huge impact on ecosystems and other species, and thus are known as ecosystem engineers. I am interested in the different functional roles species play in ecosystems and whether these functions are altered by environmental gradients.

My project seeks to understand the world below the ground that is engineered by Australia’s “jumping diggers”.

This research is based on large-scale replicated experiments across Australia where locally-extinct digging mammals have been re-introduced. I am measuring soil nutrients, ecological functions and invertebrate community structure, all of which are expected to be affected by the presence or absence of native digging mammals.

Our results contribute to restoration planning to recover important ecosystem functions.

Project partners

  • University of NSW
  • Edith Cowan University
  • Australian Wildlife Conservancy
  • Arid Recovery
  • Mt Rothwell Conservation and Research Centre