Sustainable harvesting of Conomurex luhuanus and Rochia nilotica by Indigenous Australians on the Great Barrier Reef over the past 2000 years

Ulm, Sean, McNiven, Ian J, Aird, Samantha J., and Lambrides, Ariana B. J. (2019) Sustainable harvesting of Conomurex luhuanus and Rochia nilotica by Indigenous Australians on the Great Barrier Reef over the past 2000 years. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 28. 102017.

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Offshore island colonisation and use around the northern Australian coastline in the mid-to-late Holocene is associated with expanding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations and intensifying land-use activities. However, few explicit tests of the long-term effects of shellfish forager decision-making and associated impacts on intertidal ecosystems in these newly colonised island environments have been undertaken. We report morphometric analyses on two key reef flat Great Barrier Reef shellfish species, strawberry conch Conomurex luhuanus (n = 360) and top shell Rochia nilotica (n = 45), from two late Holocene archaeological shell midden assemblages on Lizard Island, northeast Queensland. Human foraging pressure was assessed through reconstructions of population age structure across time, highlighting the importance of determining size-at-age habitat preferences and species behaviour patterns when assessing long-term anthropogenic impacts on shellfish populations. Results show no evidence for resource depression across the late Holocene which is broadly in keeping with previous findings at other locales on the Great Barrier Reef, but contrary to expectations of resource intensification models. We conclude that the rich and abundant resources of reef flat environments were resilient to relatively low intensity and likely episodic Indigenous foraging. This sustainability contrasts with the scale and impacts of intensive industrialised harvesting in the historic period.

Item ID: 60797
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2352-409X
Keywords: archaeomalacology; Conomurex luhuanus; Rochia nilotica; Great Barrier Reef; morphometrics; resource depression; ecosystem resilience
Copyright Information: © 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. The Accepted Manuscript version of this paper will be available Open Access from ResearchOnline@JCU under a Creative Commons Noncommercial No-Derivatives international license (4.0) from 3 November 2021.
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (project number CE170100015), Australian Research Council Future Fellowship (project number FT120100656)
Date Deposited: 04 Nov 2019 01:10
FoR Codes: 45 INDIGENOUS STUDIES > 4501 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, language and history > 450101 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander archaeology @ 70%
43 HISTORY, HERITAGE AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 4301 Archaeology > 430101 Archaeological science @ 30%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950503 Understanding Australias Past @ 100%
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