Aboriginal Environmental Impacts
When Captain Arthur Phillip arrived in Port Jackson, Sydney, he saw a magnificent harbour lined with trees. Many areas were park-like in appearance with well-spaced trees interspersed with patches of grass. The local Aborigines were soon driven away and with them went the practice of regularly burning off the undergrowth. The grass disappeared and the undergrowth took over, and so emerged the 'untidy' bush of the foreshore that we see today.
For 50,000 years before white settlement the Aboriginal people were an integral part of the environment. They harvested the land and they changed the environment to suit themselves. Fire was their tool for doing this.
The degree to which hunting and burning has changed the patterns of vegetation and populations of fauna is hotly debated. Were the Aborigines responsible for the disappearance of the megafauna? In this book Kohen says they were a contributing factor, but probably only after major population declines due to climate change. He presents the arguments and evidence to show that Aboriginal influence on many ecosystems of this continent has been profound and that any understanding of the Australian environment must take this into account.
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