Peter Contos, a PhD student at La Trobe University in Melbourne, is currently exploring how we can rewild whole communities of invertebrates and microbes (minibeasts) during farmland restoration to improve biodiversity, function, and ecosystem recovery. Peter, a recipient of an OFF research grant, discussed a current project aiming to right this bias by testing the efficacy of rewilding whole communities of leaf litter containing minibeasts from species rich remnant sites during farmland restoration. As diverse litter communities are crucial for efficient decomposition, it was expected to see increases in the efficiency of leaf litter breakdown with increases in species diversity. Rewilding litter with minibeasts has never been attempted before and there is hope that the results will highlight the benefit of improving minibeast diversity on farms and will give practitioners an additional tool to fight species declines.
As an introduction, Peter also briefly disussed his earlier Master’s research on the effect of dingos on animal and plant eco-systems, particualrly large macro-invertebrates, such as spiders, scorpions and beetles. He then went on to talk about the dingo as a keystone predator and its important relationship with its prey, such as cats and foxes and the effect of the dingo fence between NSW/South-eastern Queensland and South Australia and Western Queensland. Basically, excluding dingoes, as in NSW, allows cats/foxes to proliferate and they prey on insectivores, reducing biodiversity.
Peter’s talk is now available on YouTube (note that the audio does not commence until approximatley 4 minutes from commencement):