Culture, Ecology, and Economy of Fire Management in North Australian Savannas: Rekindling the Wurrk Tradition

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This engaging volume explores the management of fire in one of the world's most flammable landscapes: Australia's tropical savannas, where on average 18% of the landscape is burned annually. Impacts have been particularly severe in the Arnhem Land Plateau, a center of plant and animal diversity on Indigenous land.

Culture, Ecology and Economy of Fire Management in North Australian Savannas documents a remarkable collaboration between Arnhem Land's traditional landowners and the scientific community to arrest a potentially catastrophic fire-driven decline in the natural and cultural assets of the region - not by excluding fire, but by using it better through restoration of Indigenous control over burning.

This multi-disciplinary treatment encompasses the history of fire use in the savannas, the post-settlement changes that altered fire patterns, the personal histories of a small number of people who lived most of their lives on the plateau and, critically, their deep knowledge of fire and how to apply it to care for country. Uniquely, it shows how such knowledge and commitment can be deployed in conjunction with rigorous formal scientific analysis, advanced technology, new cross-cultural institutions and the emerging carbon economy to build partnerships for controlling fire at scales that were, until this demonstration, thought beyond effective intervention.

In 12 multi-authored chapters, the book documents key challenges and novel options for addressing chronic landscape-scale fire management issues in north Australian savannas through development of collaborative, cross-cultural "two toolkit" approaches, and commercially supported environmental services programs.


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Chapter 1 Challenges and opportunities for fire managementin fireprone northern Australia
the end of an era of systematicIndigenous fire management
adaptation readaptationand fire in the Alligator Rivers region
the creation of amodern wilderness
seasonality resources andlandscape burning on the Arnhem Land Plateau
alandmanagement hunting and ceremonial eventin western Arnhem Land
delivering multiple benefits in a changing world
Chapter 8 Fire management and biodiversity of the westernArnhem Land Plateau
a 10year assessment of the Three ParksKakadu Litchfield and Nitmiluk program
the institutional environment andits implications
Chapter 12 Fire fuels and greenhouse gases
limitations challenges and applications
Chapter 14 Fire management and woody biomass carbon stocksin mesic savannas
new options forenvironmental and socioeconomic benefit

implications for management

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About the author (2009)

Jeremy Russell-Smith is a consultant ecologist with 25 years' experience in northern Australia. He coordinates fire research programs for the Tropical Savannas CRC and works on other natural resource management projects in South-East Asia. He has an abiding interest in the ecology, biogeography and management of monsoon rainforests and sandstone heaths. He often works with Indigenous people on landscape and resource management issues.

Peter Whitehead Peter Whitehead is a senior project officer with the Northern Territory Government, working in policy in natural resource management. He has more than 25 years' experience in research on the ecology of wetland fauna, management of exploited wildlife and the role of Indigenous people in natural resource management, including fire management.

Peter Cooke Peter Cooke has worked in the Northern Territory as forester, journalist, program manager with the Northern Land Council and a number of other roles. He presently works as Chief Executive Officer of Wardekken Land Management Limited, an Indigenous corporation that plays a major role in management of the Arnhem Land escarpment.

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