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Paradise burnt: How colonizing humans transform landscapes with fire


Bowman, DMJS and Harberle, SG, Paradise burnt: How colonizing humans transform landscapes with fire, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107, (50) pp. 21234-21235. ISSN 0027-8424 (2010) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright © 2010 by the National Academy of Sciences

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DOI: doi:10.1073/pnas.1016393108


A striking feature of Southern Hemisphere landscapes is the occurrence of grasslands in regions that are climatically suitable for forests. Ecologists and biogeographers working in these southern lands have developed a range of theories to account for the biogeographic anomaly of grassland–forest mosaics. Broadly speaking, these theories divide into those that privilege the importance of an ensemble of environmental factors, including fire, or those that stress the legacy of human landscape burning. The report by McWethy et al. in PNAS provides incontrovertible evidence that anthropogenic burning transformed temperate forested landscapes on the South Island of New Zealand. They show that Polynesian (Mâori) firing commenced shortly after colonization around A.D. 1280 and transformed 40% of the original forest cover of the island to grassland and fern-shrubland. There is little room for doubting their findings given the elegant integration of a range of paleoecological methodologies, very precise dating, and a high level of replication across the island. This report will spark renewed interest in the relative importance of fire, humans, and climate in shaping forest–grassland landscape mosaics worldwide

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Environmental Sciences
Research Group:Ecological applications
Research Field:Landscape ecology
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Evaluation, allocation, and impacts of land use
UTAS Author:Bowman, DMJS (Professor David Bowman)
ID Code:67258
Year Published:2010
Web of Science® Times Cited:15
Deposited By:Plant Science
Deposited On:2011-03-01
Last Modified:2012-02-29

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