Grassroots Vol 20 No 3 | Page 28

NEWS The Australian Dung Beetle Project Cattle were only introduced to Australia in the 1880s. The country has hundreds of species of native dung beetles, but these have evolved to use the dung of kangaroos and other indigenous mammals, which have a much more fibrous diet than cattle. The native beetles, therefore, are unable to break down the vast amounts of dung produced by newly-introduced livestock. The problem of accumulating cow dung became so severe in Australia that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation initiated the ‘Australian Dung Beetle Project’, which introduced dung beetle species from South Africa and Europe to Australian farms. The project monitored the effects of the dung beetles and found that pasture quality and fertility improved significantly. There was also a 90% reduction in localised bushfires since there was less flammable manure exposed on the topsoil. Figure 1: Dung beetles are one of the most helpful critters out there 27 Grassroots Vol 20 No 3 September 2020