Bilbies are a ‘keystone’ species. This means that their protection is even more important because their survival in turn increases the chances of 19 other threatened species who share the same habitats.
Bilbies are one of nature’s eco-engineers. Greater bilbies are important in the restoration of soil and rejuvenation of vegetation in arid Australia. They use their strong front paws to dig deep holes in soil that enables plant material to fall in and decompose. At the same time, soil is aerated which supports seed germination.
Bilbies essentially create numerous compost pits every night.
That’s nature’s perfectly balanced ecosystem at work, but it’s threatened by the decline of bilbies. Where they have disappeared, the soil has become laminated and water, when it comes, reacts in a different way. It changes flood patterns and may cause run off where previously it would soak in due to the soil disturbance.
Bilby habitats also give protection to other endangered species – brush-tailed mulgara, spinifex hopping mice permanently occupy bilby burrows, and a further two species, short-beaked echidnas and sand goannas regularly using bilby burrows for shelter. An additional suite of 16 mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian and invertebrate species were detected interacting with bilby burrows. There was no difference in the number of species using disused or occupied bilby burrows, indicating that even disused bilby burrows are important structures for other species.