A late-Holocene record of coastal wetland development and fire regimes in tropical northern Australia

Mackenzie, Lydia, Moss, Patrick, and Ulm, Sean (2020) A late-Holocene record of coastal wetland development and fire regimes in tropical northern Australia. The Holocene, 30 (10). pp. 1379-1390.

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Abstract

This study presents three records of environmental change during the late-Holocene from wetlands across Bentinck Island in the South Wellesley Islands, northern Australia. Radiometric dating provided ages for sediment cores with the longest chronology spanning the last 1250 cal. yr BP. Palynological results show the diverse mangrove community transitioned to woodland- and wetland-dominated vegetation over the last 850 years on the southeast coast. The key driver of this landscape change was likely late-Holocene sea level regression and coastal progradation in the Gulf of Carpentaria. This study found freshwater wetlands expanded across Bentick Island over the last 500 years, with sedges and rushes peaking in the last 350 years. Macroscopic and microscopic charcoal records, coupled with archaeological evidence, highlights the spatial and temporal variation in fire regimes across the island, reflecting the traditional fire management practices of the Kaiadilt people during the late-Holocene. This study finds a significant increase in charcoal accumulation in the 1900s when Kaiadilt fire practices were disrupted and the South Wellesley Islands were abandoned. The pollen record reflects little change in the vegetation despite the shifting fire regime, highlighting the importance of multi-proxy approaches to reconstructing past environments in tropical northern Australia where vegetation is adapted to fire.

Item ID: 63522
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1477-0911
Keywords: charcoal; coastal; fire; island; northern Australia; palynology; vegetation change
Copyright Information: © The Author(s) 2020. Under SAGE's Green Open Access policy, the Accepted Version of the article may be posted in the author's institutional repository and reuse is restricted to non-commercial and no derivative uses.
Funders: Australian Research Council, University of Queensland (UQ), AINSE Ltd
Projects and Grants: ARC Discovery Project (DP120103179), John Ferris Memorial Scholar PGRA-10903
Date Deposited: 25 Jun 2020 05:18
FoR Codes: 04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0406 Physical Geography and Environmental Geoscience > 040606 Quaternary Environments @ 70%
21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2101 Archaeology > 210101 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Archaeology @ 30%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950503 Understanding Australias Past @ 100%
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