Nyalangka Taylor, Martu Traditional Owner, near Parnngurr, Western Australia. Photo R. Bliege Bird.

Nyalangka Taylor, Martu Traditional Owner, near Parnngurr, Western Australia. Photo R. Bliege Bird.

Indigenous Fire and Landscape Ecology

How do people shape a landscape differently than 'natural' forces? Our lab is using satellite images and aerial photography to document the contemporary and historical shifts in fire regime as people hunt, gather and burn in the spinifex grasslands of Western Australia. We've been able to show that landscapes on which aboriginal people are actively hunting and burning are more diverse, support higher populations of keystone species such as kangaroo and monitor lizards, and protect more habitat from burning in summer lightning fires.

Recent publications (download here)

Bliege Bird, R., B.F. Codding, D.W. Bird (2016) People, ENSO, and fire in Australia: fire regimes and climate controls in hummock grasslands. Philosophical Transactions B  371(1696):20150343.

Bird, D.W., R. Bliege Bird, Nyalangka Taylor, B.F. Codding (2016).  A landscape architecture of fire: cultural and ecological emergence in Australia’s Western Desert. Current Anthropology  57(S13): S65-S79.

Bird, D.W., R. Bliege Bird, B.F. Codding (2016) Pyrodiversity and the anthropocene: the role of fire in the broad spectrum revolution. Evolutionary Anthropology 25:105-116.

Codding BF, Bliege Bird R, Kauhanen P, & Bird DW (2014) Conservation or co-evolution? Dynamic effects of Aboriginal burning and hunting on kangaroo populations in Western Australia. Human Ecology 42(5):659-669.

Bliege Bird R, Taylor N, Codding BF, & Bird DW (2013) Niche construction and Dreaming logic: Aboriginal patch mosaic burning increases populations of varanid lizards (Varanus gouldii) in Western Australia. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B. 280(1772).

Bliege Bird R, Codding BF, Kauhanen P, & Bird, DW (2012) Aboriginal hunting buffers climate-driven fire-size variability in Australia’s spinifex grasslands. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(26), 10287–10292. 

Bliege Bird R, Bird DW, Codding BF, Parker CH, & Holland Jones J(2008) The fire-stick farming hypothesis: Anthropogenic fire mosaics, biodiversity and Australian Aboriginal foraging strategies. Proc Nat Acad Sci 105(39):14796-14801. 

Bird DW, Bliege Bird R & Parker CH (2005) Aboriginal burning regimes and hunting strategies in Australia’s Western Desert.  Human Ecology 33: 443-464.