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Altered Ecologies

Altered Ecologies: Fire, climate and human influence on terrestrial landscapes OPEN ACCESS

Simon G. Haberle
Janelle Stevenson
Matthew Prebble
Series: Terra Australis
Volume: 32
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Altered Ecologies
    Book Description:

    Like a star chart this volume orientates the reader to the key issues and debates in Pacific and Australasian biogeography, palaeoecology and human ecology. A feature of this collection is the diversity of approaches ranging from interpretation of the biogeographic significance of plant and animal distributional patterns, pollen analysis from peats and lake sediments to discern Quaternary climate change, explanation of the patterns of faunal extinction events, the interplay of fire on landscape evolution, and models of the environmental consequences of human settlement patterns. The diversity of approaches, geographic scope and academic rigor are a fitting tribute to the enormous contributions of Geoff Hope. As made apparent in this volume, Hope pioneered multidisciplinary understanding of the history and impacts of human cultures in the Australia- Pacific region, arguably the globe's premier model systems for understanding the consequences of human colonization on ecological systems. The distinguished scholars who have contributed to this volume also demonstrate Hope's enduring contribution as an inspirational research leader, collaborator and mentor. Terra Australis leave no doubt that history matters, not only for land management, but more importantly, in alerting settler and indigenous societies alike to their past ecological impacts and future environmental trajectories.

    eISBN: 978-1-921666-81-0
    Subjects: Archaeology, Paleontology
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  1. Matthew Prebble, Janelle Stevenson and Simon Haberle

    After more than 40 years of academic research and teaching in Quaternary Science, Prof. Geoff Hope retired in June 2009. As an undergraduate student at the University of Melbourne in the 1960s, Geoff studied the natural sciences under such greats as Ray Specht. He later became one of a pioneering band of researchers to pursue palynology in Australia, starting with a Master’s project on the peatlands of Wilsons Promontory, investigating the history of Nothofagus forest and aboriginal plant use. For his PhD research, he made the big leap into New Guinea, exploring glaciation as a driver of vegetation and climate...

  2. Ecosystem responses to long and short term climate change
  3. Human colonisation and ecological impacts
  4. Fire and its role in transforming our environment
  5. Methodological advances and applications in environmental change research
    • Janelle Stevenson, Richard Gillespie, Geoff Hope, Geraldine Jacobsen, Stewart Fallon and Vladimir Levchenko

      Research into the palaeoenvironmental history of New Caledonia was begun independently by Hope and Stevenson in the early 1990s. While the original work of Hope and colleagues was centred around questions of the long-term vegetation dynamics of maquis and rainforest within the ultramafic terrain of New Caledonia (Hope and Pask 1998; Read et al. 2000), Stevenson and colleagues were exploring questions of human impact and the detection of initial human settlement (Stevenson and Dodson 1995; Stevenson 1998; Stevenson et al. 2001; Stevenson 2004). Hope and Stevenson later came together to work on the longest record so far recovered from the...

    • Nick Porch and A. Peter Kershaw

      In the Northern Hemisphere, late Quaternary chronologies are commonly constructed using AMS 14C dated plant macrofossils because they are generally argued to provide the most reliable chronology (MacDonald et al. 1991; Törnqvist et al. 1992; Snyder et al. 1994; Birks and Birks 2000; Hatté and Jull 2007). Although terrestrial macrofossils are often relatively abundant and well preserved in a variety of site types, they are still potentially subject to a range of complications that include reworking, movement of dissolved organic carbon, contamination by modern carbon due to inappropriate storage and analysis, and potentially, measurement effects relating to small sample sizes...

    • Andrew H. Thornhill

      Bega Swamp (Figure 1) is a seldom disturbed restiad-shrub bog (Hope et al. 2000) located 50 km inland at the eastern side of the Southern Tablelands in Wadbilliga National Park, New South Wales (36° 31’ S, 149° 30’ E) at an altitude of around 1080 m and with a mean annual rainfall of 800 mm to 1200 mm (Polach and Singh 1980). Rainfall is a limiting factor to plant growth in the region (Donders et al. 2007). It is thought that the swamp originated as a valley fill between Yankee Creek and Bemboka River (Polach and Singh 1980) and occupies...

    • Kathryn H. Taffs, Brendan Logan, Jeff F. Parr and Geraldine E. Jacobsen

      Peatlands are highly valuable ecosystems for their ecological functions as well as their economic and societal values (Charman 2002). Yet they are also highly vulnerable to degradation by a range of anthropogenic activities and climate change (Charman 2002; Gorham and Rochefort 2003; O’Connell 2003; Rochefort et al. 2003; Vasander et al. 2003). In Australia, peatlands are an unusual and infrequent component of the landscape (Whinam et al. 2003), mostly distributed in the alpine areas of the southeast of the continent (Clarke and Martin 1999). However, areas of peat also occur in the coastal lowlands, often in dune swales, both on...

    • Rachel Nanson

      Peatlands are often perceived to be relatively fragile ecosystems that are sensitive to fluctuating water tables and disrupted by channel formation. The Barrington Tops region of New South Wales exhibits peatlands and channels that have coevolved to form stable equilibrium systems not previously recognised in upland systems. The channels have adjusted their cross-sections, bedforms and planform to optimise flow efficiency and limit vertical peatland development. This research summarises these conditions for several peatland channels.

      High channel bank strength is afforded by dense vegetation that facilitates optimal hydraulic efficiencies with unusually low channel width/depth ratios of ~2. Such channels frequently flow...

    • Michael L. Prentice and S. Glidden

      Whereas surface temperatures in the tropics (20°N-20°S) have increased ~0.13°C/decade between 1979 and 2005 (Trenberth et al. 2007), the smaller warming of the lower tropical troposphere over this interval, ~0.06°C/decade, is within the error of the measurements (Karl et al. 2006). This situation is problematic because it calls into question climate model results that show vertical amplification of tropical surface warming (Karl et al. 2006). More specifically, climate models, with natural and anthropogenic forcing, show a decadal-scale warming trend that increases with elevation in the troposphere. On the other hand, several types of observation in the tropics show less warming...

    • R. Michael Bourke

      Temperature extremes set limits on the growth of all crop species. In mountainous regions, such as Papua New Guinea (PNG), there is a regular and linear decrease in temperature with increasing altitude. This regularity is known as the lapse rate (McAlpine et al. 1983:92).¹ This relationship is sufficiently precise to enable altitude data to be substituted for temperature data. Furthermore, in regions located at low latitudes, the temperature differences from north to south at a given altitude are small, and similarly, seasonal variation in temperature is very small.² This means that estimates of average yearly temperature can be made from...