Kuku-Yalanji rainforest aboriginal people and carbohydrate resource management in the wet tropics of Queensland, Australia

Hill, Rosemary, and Baird, Adelaide (2003) Kuku-Yalanji rainforest aboriginal people and carbohydrate resource management in the wet tropics of Queensland, Australia. Human Ecology, 31 (1). pp. 27-52.

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Abstract

Carbohydrate food sources have emerged as a critical factor limiting occupation of rainforests by hunter—gatherer peoples globally. In the wet tropics bioregion of northeastern Australia, Kuku–Yalanji aboriginal people occupied the rainforests through a hunter–gatherer subsistence economy prior to European occupation. Collaborative environmental research between a researcher at the James Cook University and Kuku–Yalanji people has established that their fire management protected carbohydrate resources in the fire-sensitive rainforests and their margins, and ensured ongoing access to the critical dry season carbohydrate resource, Cycas media, growing in patches of fire-prone open forest on each clan estate. Carbohydrate resources in the wet season were obtained predominantly from seeds of rainforest tree nuts, a high proportion of which are wet tropics endemic species. Several of the genera utilized by aboriginal people in the wet tropics bioregion also occur in the rainforests of eastern Cape York Peninsula, where they were not utilized as foods. It is hypothesized that use of rainforest seeds for carbohydrate is a cultural adaptation that occurred in the wet tropics bioregion, stimulated by the unique availability of the substantial number of large-seeded rainforest trees that are wet tropics endemics. The implications of these data for concepts about the impact of aboriginal fires on Australian rainforests are considered. Aboriginal fires imposed a fine patterning on the vegetation at the local scale, with little effect on the vegetation at the regional scale, which is determined by environmental factors.

Item ID: 6390
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: Australian aborigines; carbohydrate management; fire; rainforest
ISSN: 1572-9915
Date Deposited: 21 Jan 2010 23:56
FoR Codes: 07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0705 Forestry Sciences > 070508 Tree Nutrition and Physiology @ 34%
07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0705 Forestry Sciences > 070503 Forestry Fire Management @ 33%
07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0799 Other Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences > 079999 Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences not elsewhere classified @ 33%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9699 Other Environment > 969999 Environment not elsewhere classified @ 100%
Citation Count from Web of Science Web of Science 7
Downloads: Total: 2
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