Monday, February 21, 2011

Species Assault is a Go

If it weren't nonfiction, it might be the definitive computer nerd thriller. "The computer says you must now die, and this is how it will happen." Really. And "the state" controls the computer.

But it's not necessarily as Orwellian as it sounds. For it's pest control of the animal variety that's the topic. Australia is spectacularly beset by non-native, invasive species introduced over the years in misbegotten attempts to have exotic pests "bio-control" populations of domestic ones. (One famous example: In 1935 enormous Hawaiian toads were let loose in Australian sugar cane fields to control cane beetles. But as things turned out, the beetles clung near the tops of the stalks, and as high as they jumped, the bottom-heavy toads couldn't reach them. The toads proved to be voracious omnivores. At the same time, they multiplied rapidly and spread diseases among indigenous species.)

Now, according to the first issue of the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution, a computer application developed by ecologists at the University of Adelaide in Australia offers wildlife managers Spatio-Temporal Animal Reduction (STAR), a spreadsheet of tested culling strategies and options. Cut. Paste. Copy. Move. Deelte. Goodbye feral pigs, buffalo, horses, and other fiendishly foreign fauna. Species assault is a "go."

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