A Charles Sturt University (CSU) ecologist will extend international knowledge about the impact of Indigenous burning on Australian mammals and its potential to restore heavily degraded ecosystems.
Dr Dale Nimmo, a lecturer in ecology at CSU's School of Environmental Sciences in Albury-Wodonga and a member of the University's Institute of Land Water and Society, has received almost $86 000 from the Hermon Slade Foundation for the project, Can Aboriginal fire management restore mammal communities?
The project will examine the impact of Indigenous burning, particularly patch mosaic burning, on mammal communities by focusing on contemporary burning by Indigenous communities of north-central Western Australia.
Dr Nimmo said, "It's speculated that the loss of Indigenous burning regimes with the displacement of Indigenous communities lead to the collapse of Australia's mammal communities by homogenising the landscape, removing food and shelter, and exposing mammals to introduced predators such as red foxes and feral cats."
"The Indigenous communities of Australia's western deserts offer an invaluable opportunity to examine the ecological impacts of traditional Indigenous land management in real time.
"For example, the Martu of the western desert have lived in the western deserts for thousands of years with fire intimately linked with their existence.
"They meticulously maintain a fine-grained fire mosaic for hunting and gathering, one that mimics the fire management of their ancestors."
The CSU academic has also just won the 2016 Wiley Next Generation Ecologist Award by the Ecological Society of Australia (ESA), awarded annually to the most outstanding early career (less than five years post PhD) ecologist in Australia.
Dr Nimmo will use the award to travel to Pennsylvania State University in the USA to work with collaborators on the project. "I am working with Professor Bliege Bird and Associate Professor Doug Bird, two researchers who've undertaken pioneering research on Indigenous fire in Martu communities for over a decade," Dr Nimmo said.
"As anthropologists, they have immense knowledge of the cultural, social and economic reasons underpinning Indigenous fire regimes, and are beginning to think more closely about the ecological outcomes of these fire regimes.
"I will combine my ecological expertise on the impacts of fire regimes on Australia's ecosystems with their anthropological expertise.
"There is real potential for synergies across academic disciplines that are rare in the field of conservation science".