Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

A Burning Question

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By Karl-Heinz Wyrwoll, Michael Notaro & Guangshan Chen

For thousands of years, indigenous Australians modified the landscape of the continent through regular and widespread burning of vegetation. Their use of fire was in part for hunting purposes and also for clearing pathways, for signalling other tribal groups and for promoting grass regrowth. Results from a recent climate modelling experiment suggest that these traditional burning practices may have been of sufficient magnitude to change the climate of northern Australia.

Karl-Heinz Wyrwoll is Associate Professor at The University of Western Australia’s School of Earth and Environment. Michael Notaro and Guangshan Chen are based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Climatic Research. The study was funded by Kimberley Foundation Australia and Climate Program Prediction for the Americas, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (USA).

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