Fire Ecology


Most assumptions about the function of aboriginal mosaic burning in the arid zone of Australia center on the short term benefits men gain through increases in hunting returns, and the long-term benefits of increased density of types of food plants that do not compete well against spinifex grasses, particularly seed grasses and fruits, and maintenance of habitat for small mammals. However, the role of women in both burning and in reaping the benefits of mosaic burning has generally remained unexplored. Our research team is currently exploring Martu women's role in burning and land management using a combination of ethnographic observation and remote sensing/GIS technology. Women mosaic burning in the arid zone of AustraliaWomen mosaic burning in the arid zone of Australia Women benefit in the short term through burning patches of old-growth spinifex grass as a result of increases in their own hunting returns, particularly hunting sand goanna and perenti. Women may actually experience greater relative gains in foraging returns over the short term as a result of mosaic burning than men. Research opportunities are available for students with experience in remote sensing/GIS technology who are interested in pursuing topics related to the role of anthropogenic fire in the ecological dynamics of the Western Desert.

Project Website: