Fire, humans and climate as drivers of environmental change on Broughton Island, New South Wales, Australia
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Scott D. Mooney; Geoffrey Hope; Dylan Horne; Johan Kamminga; Alan N. Williams
Publication Year: 2020

Cataloging Information

  • aboriginal
  • Australia
  • charcoal
  • climate change
  • ENSO - El Nino Southern Oscillation
  • Holocene
  • New South Wales
  • palynology
  • International
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: October 27, 2020
FRAMES Record Number: 62182


In Australia, the drivers of precolonial fire regimes remain contentious, with some advocating an anthropogenic-dominated regime, and others highlighting the importance of climate, climatic variability or alternatively some nexus between climate and human activity. Here, we explore the inter-relationships between fire, humans and vegetation using macroscopic charcoal, archaeology and palynology over the last ~5430 cal. year BP from Broughton Island, a small, near-shore island located in eastern Australia. We find a clear link between fire and the reduction of arboreal pollen and rainforest indicators on the island, especially at ~4.0 ka and in the last ~1000 years. Similarities with comparable palaeoenvironmental records of fire in the region and a record of strong El Niño (dry, fire-prone) events supports the contention that climate was a significant influence on the fire regimes of Broughton Island. However, two periods of enhanced fire activity, at ~4000 years BP and ~<600 years BP have weaker links to climate, and perhaps reflect anthropogenic activity. Changes to the fire regime in the last ~600 years corresponds with the earliest evidence of Indigenous archaeology on the island, and coincides with implications that Polynesian people were present in the region. After the mid-Twentieth Century a human-dominated fire regime is also an obvious feature of the reconstructed fire record on Broughton Island.

Online Link(s):
Mooney, Scott D.; Hope, Geoffrey; Horne, Dylan; Kamminga, Johan; Williams, Alan N. 2020. Fire, humans and climate as drivers of environmental change on Broughton Island, New South Wales, Australia. The Holocene 30(11):1528-1539.