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Analysis and Comment (40)

A glimpse of wild brumbies in the Snowy Mountains. A glimpse of wild brumbies in the Snowy Mountains. Michael Tristram/Flickr

The grim story of the Snowy Mountains' cannibal horses

When you think of horses in the Australia high country, you might imagine noble brumbies galloping out from snowgums across grassy peaks, tails and manes trailing like streamers. But on a recent trip to…
Surprise! Here’s that raccoon you didn’t order. Surprise! Here’s that raccoon you didn’t order. Ben Birchall/PA

Mussels, crabs and … racoons? Future invasive species are not what you might expect

Britain, like many countries, has already witnessed the establishment of many non-native species of plants and animals, and about 15% have become problematic and so termed “invasive”. Some were deliberately…
Left home for a vacation, and came back to this. Left home for a vacation, and came back to this. ghwpix

The ‘plant that ate the South’ makes soil puke carbon

A plant called “the scourge of the South” has a new strike against it. Recent research shows that the impact of the invasive species in question, kudzu, is more troublesome than had been previously thought…
A greater stick-nest rat ready to be released - with radio collar attached. A greater stick-nest rat ready to be released - with radio collar attached. Arid Recovery

From the frontline: saving Australia’s threatened mammals

Almost a third of Australia’s mammals have become extinct or are facing extinction, largely thanks to introduced predators such as cats and foxes. But what is the best way to save the species still alive…
American wolves show us how important large predators are for conservation. American wolves show us how important large predators are for conservation. Doug McLaughlin

What American wolves can teach us about Australian dingoes

We know that introduced predators such as foxes and cats are one of the greatest threats to Australia’s wildlife, but what is the best way to control them? Many Australian ecologists argue dingoes are…
Carp have spread throughout Australia’s waterways - but CSIRO is hoping to bring a new genetic weapon to bear on them. Carp have spread throughout Australia’s waterways - but CSIRO is hoping to bring a new genetic weapon to bear on them. Kletr/Sutterstcok.com

Male-only gene trick could leave invasive fish species floundering

A genetic modification that creates male-only populations could give us a new weapon against invasive fish such as carp that plague our waterways. “Daughterless technology”, which works by removing females…
Dingoes offer a way to conserve Australia’s wildlife, for free. Dingoes offer a way to conserve Australia’s wildlife, for free. Arian Wallach

Australia should enlist dingoes to control invasive species

Introduced species pose one of the greatest threats to Australia’s fauna and flora, but expensive efforts to control them aren’t working. Instead of spending millions of dollars on culling, giving dingoes…
Not a new idea, as this map from 1885 shows, but no less controversial. Not a new idea, as this map from 1885 shows, but no less controversial. Meyers Konversationslexikons

Canal carved through Nicaragua will destroy rainforests, communities and wildlife

The Nicaraguan government has granted a concession to a mysterious Chinese company owned by Jing Wang, a little-known Hong-Kong based businessman, to build an inter-oceanic canal. This would provide an…
While native in Europe, gorse has become one of the world’s worst weeds, particularly in Australia and New Zealand. While native in Europe, gorse has become one of the world’s worst weeds, particularly in Australia and New Zealand. Flickr: orangebrompton

Wash and go for a weed-free Christmas holiday

As Christmas and summer holidays approach, many of us are packing our bags, ready to drive off on holidays to see families and friends. Those long car trips are often to coastal towns, national parks and…
Tiny Japanese skeleton shrimp Caprella mutica, found in concentrations up to 300,000/m2. Tiny Japanese skeleton shrimp Caprella mutica, found in concentrations up to 300,000/m2. SAMS

There are no barriers to prevent marine invasive species

Ash dieback, oak processionary moths, waterway minkes and parrakeets in Kew Gardens – there are plenty of species on and even above ground in the UK that didn’t originate in the country. The fifth Annual…
European green crabs, the party crashers of the American coasts. European green crabs, the party crashers of the American coasts. Lmbuga

Heed past lessons to save Arctic from invasive species

More shipping is sailing through thawing Arctic waters, but while these northern routes might provide opportunities for tourism, mining and cutting down delivery times, the ships may also carry stowaways…
Pretty but nasty. Are they really to blame? Pretty but nasty. Are they really to blame? Stefan Siebert

What you need to know about jellyfish attacks on salmon farms

Tens of thousands of farmed salmon are dead after a swarm of mauve stinger jellyfish swept through an open-ocean salmon farm in Ireland. Tourists in France and Spain must contend with these summer visitors…
Ash dieback - wilting our leaves since September 2012. Ash dieback - wilting our leaves since September 2012. Gareth Fuller/PA

We must develop the genetic tools to fight ash dieback

Ashwellthorpe Lower Wood in Norfolk, England has been managed by coppicing, an ancient form of forestry, for more than a thousand years. It was recorded as coppiced woodland in the Domesday Book published…
Not cute, but crucial. Not cute, but crucial. Alvesgaspar

Wasps deserve to be loved

Recently a newspaper asked its readers to propose species that were, ecologically speaking, “useless”, such that their loss would not have any great knock-on effect on other species or biological cycles…
Bird feed now. The whole bird later. Bird feed now. The whole bird later. vermininc

Introducing species to change ecosystems is a balancing act

Species hold ecosystems in a delicate balance. From time to time humans introduce non-native species to an ecosystem, because they may be needed for domestic work, as pets, for carrying loads or even for…
Cane toads spread faster when they arrive in a new area. Cane toads spread faster when they arrive in a new area. Flickr/blundershot

Why cane toads give us small hope for climate change

Cane toads are one of the Australia’s most serious invasive species, killing predators such as goannas, quolls and crocodiles in the tropical north. We already know the toads are advancing from Queensland…
Introduced animals are a huge problem in conserving Australian species, but there’s no proof hunting helps. Introduced animals are a huge problem in conserving Australian species, but there’s no proof hunting helps. Beppie K/flickr

Hunting game gets new rules in NSW, but should we play at all?

The New South Wales Government will allow hunting to continue in national parks from October, after disbanding the state’s Game Council earlier this month following a scathing review of how it was being…
It’s hard being a tiny snail in a Great Lake. It’s hard being a tiny snail in a Great Lake. Karen Richards

Australian endangered species: Tasmanian snails and limpets

While you’re worrying about pygmy-possums and hairy-nosed wombats spare a thought for some of Australia’s least known endangered species. Freshwater molluscs - snails, slugs and mussels - are in trouble…
The larval caterpillar of the oak processionary moth: I love the smell of pesticide in the morning. The larval caterpillar of the oak processionary moth: I love the smell of pesticide in the morning. Forestry Commission/Crown Copyright

How to kill a very hungry caterpillar (and its invasive friends)

As thousands of people have descended on the Chelsea Flower Show this week, one exhibit has startled visitors by contrasting its beautiful sunken garden with a sinister avenue of dead trees. Designed by…
Christmas Island is a shelter for cultural and environmental diversity. Christmas Island is a shelter for cultural and environmental diversity. Flickr/Hadi Zaher

Unknown wonders: Christmas Island

Australia is famous for its natural beauty: the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru, Kakadu, the Kimberley. But what about the places almost no one goes? We asked ecologists, biologists and wildlife researchers…
Introduced as food for cattle, gamba grass burns in a way that threatens northern Australia’s ecosystems. Introduced as food for cattle, gamba grass burns in a way that threatens northern Australia’s ecosystems. AAP Image/CRC for Weed Management

Field of nightmares: gamba grass in the Top End

Stretching across the north from Broome to Townsville, Australia’s tropical savannas are the largest, least-degraded savannas on Earth. While fire management, pastoralism, mining, and the decline of native…
A free-ranging (dingo-like) dog in Kakadu National Park. A free-ranging (dingo-like) dog in Kakadu National Park. John Tracey

Dingoes, dogs and the feral identity

On a stop-over in Thailand, CSIRO scientist Laurie Corbett noticed some familiar-looking, ginger dogs wandering the streets. This encounter set him thinking about the origins of Australia’s dingoes, a…
Feral cats are a significant threat to Australian fauna species. Feral cats are a significant threat to Australian fauna species. Tim Doherty / ECU

Feral felines: managing their impact on native fauna

Australian fauna have suffered serious declines since European settlement, with small- and medium-sized mammals being the worst affected. Feral cats depredate native birds, mammals and reptiles and are…
The red fox is significantly implicated in wiping out native mammals, but there are some promising methods for reducing its impact. The red fox is significantly implicated in wiping out native mammals, but there are some promising methods for reducing its impact. Harley Kingston

Is it too late to bring the red fox under control?

The red fox may be the most destructive species ever introduced to Australia. For a start, it carries most of the blame for Australia’s appalling record of recent mammal extinctions. Since European settlement…
Fair game: Is the deer a pest or good hunting? Fair game: Is the deer a pest or good hunting? black_lava/Flickr

The protected pest: deer in Australia

Deer are arguably the most charismatic of Australia’s invasive species. Long considered a welcome addition to the Australian environment, primarily as a highly valued hunting resource, deer populations…
Australia’s best known pest. Australia’s best known pest. AAP Image/Dave Hunt

The toad we love to hate

For some unfathomable reason, cane toads stir the popular imagination. Most invasive species are simply not noticed by most of us, or, if they are, they are quickly assimilated into our mental landscape…
The Indian Myna is an invasive species – but has its behaviour changed in Australia? The Indian Myna is an invasive species – but has its behaviour changed in Australia? Wikimedia Commons.

Besieged by destructive plants and animals? Blame epigenetics

Plants and animals that are seemingly harmless in their native habitats can become quite aggressive or even destructive in a new location. Think of the rats that have been a source of human and animal…
One of the worst Christmas presents Australia has had. One of the worst Christmas presents Australia has had. Richard Taylor

Rabbits and biological control: two unexpected Christmas presents

Domesticated rabbits arrived in Australia with the first fleet and some became established as feral populations around colonial settlements as early as the 1830s. However, the situation changed dramatically…
Starlings were introduced to Australia by humans, but does that matter? Starlings were introduced to Australia by humans, but does that matter? Simon Evans

In defence of invasive alien species

My cat caught a starling this week. By the time I intervened, the poor bird’s leg was broken, the kitchen floor was strewn with feathers, and I had to make one of those awful decisions. Was I to leave…
Native or not? Red cabbage palms found in Palm Valley in the Northern Territory were introduced by Aboriginal people thousands of years ago. Native or not? Red cabbage palms found in Palm Valley in the Northern Territory were introduced by Aboriginal people thousands of years ago. Jurriaan Persyn

What is a native and why should we care?

New molecular techniques show that an iconic palm only grows in central Australia because humans moved it there thousands of years ago. It poses the question: should we still regard this as a native species…
An introduced species can be invasive without causing native species' decline. Leaping to conclusions won’t help manage the problem. An introduced species can be invasive without causing native species' decline. Leaping to conclusions won’t help manage the problem. Degilbo/Flickr

We love to hate the common myna, but what should we do about it?

In Australia we are all too familiar with devastating environmental impacts of introduced species such as foxes, rabbits and cane toads. But did you know that some introduced species may have a relatively…
Dingo: when they come to rely on humans for food and water, not killing them can be naive. Dingo: when they come to rely on humans for food and water, not killing them can be naive. Flickr/woulfe

Non-violence has its place, but let’s give dingoes due credit

The sad reality of human-dingo relations is that blood will be shed, as Brad Purcell recently reminded us in these pages with his article about non-violent co-existence, The Australian Dingo: to be respected…
The public often thinks science and technology are the cause of their problems, not the solution. The public often thinks science and technology are the cause of their problems, not the solution. Erik Berndt

Ask and you shall receive - smart consultation leads to better science

Worldwide, and especially in Australia, much valuable science is being wasted or stalled through what is known as technology rejection – the public’s hostile reception of new technologies or scientific…
Honeybees are important pollinators, but not the only ones. Honeybees are important pollinators, but not the only ones. BugMan50

Honeybee decline warrants concern, but not panic

In many countries there has been concern about a decline in honeybees. You may have even heard that honeybees face dangers so dire that their imminent decline threatens world food production, with potential…
Are rabbits poised to take back the landscape? Are rabbits poised to take back the landscape? AAP

Controlling rabbits: let’s not get addicted to viral solutions

Rabbit-killing viruses - first myxoma, then rabbit haemorrhagic disease - have rid many of our landscapes of rabbits and lulled Australians into a false sense of security. Rabbits are now fighting back…
Dingos are introduced, but have they gone native? Dingos are introduced, but have they gone native? AAP

Ask the locals: a new way to tell if dingoes are native

Native status is a big deal. It affects where conservation dollars are spent, and our inherent reaction to a species. Most people believe that native equals good and alien equals bad, but in some cases…
Just because an idea seems ridiculous, doesn’t mean it’s not worth discussing. Just because an idea seems ridiculous, doesn’t mean it’s not worth discussing. moirabot/Flickr

Elephants on grass: only lively debate can save Australia’s environment

Last week I published an opinion piece in Nature attempting to crystallise debate on a number of issues in Australian environmental management: bushfires, weeds, feral animals, management of Aboriginal…

Research and News (4)

Research Briefs (10)

Wild dogs threaten sheep stocks

Wild dogs may eliminate rangeland sheep production within 40 years unless there is boosted coordinated effort between landholders…

Invasive fish prove to be resourceful

Invasive species of fish, collectively known as Asian carp, may prove more of a concern to American river systems than previously…