Doug Bird, Penn State. Selection of Archaeology division
Title: Livelihoods, fire regimes, and novel ecosystems in Indigenous Australia
Thursday, November 16, 2017
Abstract: Australia presents a paradox in the world’s environmental crisis: despite relatively low rates of industrial land cover change and high ecological integrity, it has the planet’s highest rate of endemic mammal loss. Here I present recent data on the integrity of Australia’s ecosystems, endemic extinctions, and invasive species, and investigate hypotheses about the ecology of historic and contemporary land use in remote Indigenous lands. The presentation focuses on understanding heterogeneity in faunal responses to Indigenously managed landscapes in the Western Desert of Australia. Using track plot surveys and analyses of fire histories from both satellite images and historic aerial photographs, I present strong evidence that fire regimes maintained in Indigenous livelihoods shape the distribution and activity measures of a number of keystone species. The results have implications for recent reorientations in national Indigenous and environmental policy, as well as new questions about the co-emergence of anthropogenic landscapes and subsistence intensification across the human experience.