Reimagining the relationship between Gondwanan forests and Aboriginal land management in Australia's “Wet Tropics”

Elsevier, iScience, Volume 24, 19 March 2021
Roberts P., Buhrich A., Caetano-Andrade V., Cosgrove R., Fairbairn A., Florin S.A. et al.

The “Wet Tropics” of Australia host a unique variety of plant lineages that trace their origins to the super-continent of Gondwanaland. While these “ancient” evolutionary records are rightly emphasized in current management of the region, multidisciplinary research and lobbying by Rainforest Aboriginal Peoples have also demonstrated the significance of the cultural heritage of the “Wet Tropics.” Here, we evaluate the existing archeological, paleoenvironmental, and historical evidence to demonstrate the diverse ways in which these forests are globally significant, not only for their ecological heritage but also for their preservation of traces of millennia of anthropogenic activities, including active burning and food tree manipulation. We argue that detailed paleoecological, ethnobotanical, and archeological studies, working within the framework of growing national and world heritage initiatives and active application of traditional knowledge, offer the best opportunities for sustainable management of these unique environments in the face of increasingly catastrophic climate change and bushfires.