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Fire Management May Date Back 40,000 Years

Monday, September 11, 2017

Tasmania controlled burnLUNGTALANANA ISLAND, TASMANIA—According to a report in Australia's ABC News, information obtained from a sediment core taken from a lake on a remote island off the coast of Tasmania suggests that Aboriginal people were managing the land with fire at least 41,000 years ago. Researchers Simon Haberle of Australian National University, and fire ecologist David Bowman, in cooperation with the Tasmanian Aboriginal Center, dated charcoal and pollen in the core sample, and determined that the pattern of how often the island’s vegetation caught fire over thousands of years changed over time. “What we see is that over most of the period of the record, frequent and low-intensity fires occurred on the island,” Haberle said. He thinks Aboriginal people regularly burned the landscape in order to prevent catastrophic fires in the dry, flammable environment. “When Europeans arrive there is a change in the fire regime and there are many very strong fires and in many cases catastrophic fires have occurred in the recent past,” he explained. For more, go to “Letter From California: The Ancient Ecology of Fire.”

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