Rewilding the devil: a movie review (SPOILERS)

Oh, how we have missed Margaret and David, sitting in their armchairs, giving every movie that hits our screens the what-for! Those 28 years of banter, all the disagreement, so many stars given or not given. When will we get another At The Movies?Let’s not get too sad. As we wait, we might as well talk about rewilding; in particular, the possible maybe one-day re-introduction of the Tasmanian devil to mainland Australia. The point of which would be to replace all those pesky introduced apex predators with a native one, hopefully leading to some ecosystem-level restoration.

Last year Daniel ran the models and concluded that devil reintroduction would have a tonne of benefits. The models received some good reviews, which resulted in the publication receiving a general release. But now that all the critics have had a look at it, the rotten tomatoes score has decreased somewhat.

One group of reviewers – headed by Chris – didn’t like the models and wrote  a detailed response letter to the authors. In it, they pretty much point out how many of the things included in Daniel’s model were not the best or most robust approaches. For example, they reckon you shouldn’t be including indirect interactions, your model will sort them out for you!

The overall conclusion was that uncertainty in the model wasn’t maybe the best. Ecosystems are inheriently complex and predicting the strength of species interactions is difficult – especially in the case where you are modelling interactions that do not happen in nature (how do we know how devils and foxes will interact??). A little less confidence next time maybe….

For the actual science of this story, you should definitely read the paper and contact the authors if you have any questions.

Baker CMBode M & McCarthy MA (2016) Models that predict ecosystem impacts of reintroductions should consider uncertainty and distinguish between direct and indirect effects. Biological Conservation 196: 211-212.

K!E#17 by Luke S. O’Loughlin


This comic is a sequel to a comic posted earlier this year Rewilding the devil you know (K!E#6)





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