Gunak, Gapalg Dja Gungod ('Fire, floodplain and paperbark') : a study of fire behaviour in the Melaleuca-floodplain communities of Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory, Australia
Roberts, Susan Jane
PublisherSchool of Oriental and African Studies (University of London)
MetadataShow full item record
In the past fire ecology literature in the tropics has focused mostly on the role of fire within the savanna biome. The fire ecology of tropical wetlands has been largely neglected. This thesis attempts to redress this imbalance by examining the fire behaviour of the wetlands in Kakadu National Park, northern Australia. Wetland burning has become a critical management issue in the Park, particularly since the eradication of the feral Asian water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis Linnaeus) from the Park. Fuel loads, which had been previously suppressed by grazing and trampling, have increased substantially, and this has subsequently affected the fire ecology of the region. This thesis investigates aspects of fire ecology in the Mclaleucafloodplain communities of Kakadu. It examines Aboriginal people's contemporary use and knowledge of fire, as well as the fire behaviour and impact of fires both set by Aboriginal people and from other sources of ignition. In addition, a 'Wetland Burning Index' (WBI) is compiled in order to examine some of the interactions between wetland fuel, weather and fire behaviour. A range of ecological and ethnoecological methodologies are employed in order to measure fire behaviour in situ rather than approximating specific fire regimes under experimental conditions. The thesis assesses the effectiveness and practicability of these methods. A description of wetland fire behaviour is also given, and includes a range of fire types and phenomena. Aboriginal names of fires, and related terms, are also detailed (in the Gundjeihmi language), some of which have not been previously documented. The study concludes by discussing how indigenous people's knowledge of fire can contribute to the field of wetland fire ecology. It also discusses how different fire types can be used to manage tropical wetland ecosystems.