What happens when people enter new environments? This study identifies and measures the impacts of human arrivals on the Australian environment using the rich archaeological and palaeoenvironmental records of the South Wellesley archipelago in the southern Gulf of Carpentaria to produce integrated models of human-environment interaction over the last 10,000 years.
1 January 2012 - ongoing
With financial support from the Australian Research Council and Australian Institute of Nuclear Sciences and Engineering
|Academic Group:||Social Sciences|
Archaeology, Kaiadilt, Aboriginal Australia, Islands
The recent timing of Kaiadilt Aboriginal settlement on these islands provides a unique opportunity to investigate human impacts on undisturbed Australian ecosystems against a backdrop of natural environmental change. Results are crucial for advancing our understanding of human responses to changing coastal environments in the context of rapidly shifting climates.
When humans enter new landscapes they profoundly change the natural order. These impacts are particularly marked on previously uninhabited islands. For example, following the first arrival of people on Pacific islands, archaeological and palaeoecological records clearly demonstrate plant and animal translocations, major changes in local resources (including local extinctions), as well as alterations to vegetation and erosion patterns. It follows that the arrival of people in Australia, the world’s largest island, would have inevitably altered the environment. Here it has been suggested that events such as the extinction of megafauna, the initiation of widespread soil erosion and radical restructuring of vegetation communities were related to the arrival of humans.
Advancing research on these issues is critical for resolving fundamental debates such as the antiquity of human occupation, the development of unique Australian ecosystems and the long-term history of human-environment interaction, yet there has been a surprising absence of systematic research aimed at identifying and measuring the impacts of human arrivals on the Australian environment.
To directly address these issues, we have partnered with the Kaiadilt Aboriginal Corporation to undertake an integrated archaeological, palaeoecological and palaeoclimatological study of the South Wellesley Archipelago in the Gulf of Carpentaria of tropical northern Australia. Results are advancing our understanding of the impacts of humans on unique Australian ecosystems and cultural responses to changing climates and environments.
Key contact: Chief Investigator, Professor Sean Ulm at email@example.com