Effects of individual fire events on the flower production of fruit-bearing tree species, with reference to Aboriginal people’s management and use, at Kalumburu, North Kimberley, Australia

January 2004 — Australian Journal of Botany 52(3)
DOI: 10.1071/BT03157

Tom Vigilante, David M. J. S. Bowman

This study used a number of landscape-scale natural experiments to investigate the influence of individual fire events on the reproductive output of key fruit-bearing woody species [Buchanania obovata Engl. (two leaf forms), Persoonia falcata R.Br., Planchonia careya (F.Muell.) Knuth, Syzygium eucalyptoides (F.Muell.) B.Hyland, Syzygium suborbiculare (Benth.) T.Hartley & Perry. and Terminalia cunninghamii C.Gardner] around Kalumburu, North Kimberley, Australia.

Patterns of landscape fire and predicted vegetation response in the North Kimberley region of Western Australia

January 2003 — International Journal of Wildland Fire 12(4)
DOI: 10.1071/WF03021

Rohan P Fisher, Tom Vigilante, Cameron Yates, Jeremy Russell-Smith

The paper reports on the development of a decadal fire history, 1990–1999, derived from Landsat imagery, and associated assessment of landscape-scale patterns, in a remote, sparsely human-populated region of the high rainfall zone of monsoonal north-western Australia. The assembled fire history confirms observations, derived from coarser-scale imagery, that substantial areas of the North Kimberley are burnt each year. The annual mean extent of burning was 31% (albeit involving marked inter-annual variability), with most burning occurring in the latter part of the dry season under relatively severe fire weather conditions. Extent of burning was found to be associated with intensity of landuse; most burning occurred on pastoral lands, particularly in association with more fertile basalt soils. Based on previous modelling studies, predicted effects of contemporary fire regimes include increased development of woody regeneration size-classes, especially on non-basalt substrates. In contrast, on sandstone-derived substrata, fire interval data indicate that longer-lived obligate-seeder shrub species are likely to be suppressed and ultimately displaced by contemporary fire regimes. Such observations are supported by recent evidence of regional collapse of the long-lived obligate seeder tree species, Callitris intratropica. Collectively, assembled data point to the need to undertake a thorough appraisal of the status of regional biota in this remote, ostensibly ecologically intact region.

Analysis of Explorers’ Records of Aboriginal Landscape Burning in the Kimberley Region of Western Australia

December 2002 — Article in Australian Geographical Studies 39(2):135 – 155
DOI: 10.1111/1467-8470.00136

Tom Vigilante

The accounts of explorers and colonists in the Kimberley region of Western Australia were searched to find records of landscape burning by Aborigines. Analyses of these records provide estimates of the spatial and temporal patterns of fire across the region in historic times.The seasonality of fire varied across the region. In northern parts of the Kimberley landscape fire was recorded from May to October with peak levels in June and September. In southern parts of the region there are records of burning as early as February and March, through to August but no records of fire were made in late dry season months. Modern fire regimes were compared with historic by superimposing the routes taken by five explorers over a modern fire history map derived from satellite imagery. Tallies of the number of modern fires that intersect the explorer’s daily and monthly route were compared with actual observations of fire made by the explorers in historic times. The results indicate an increase in early dry season fires and the overall frequency of fires across the region in modern times. Explorers’ accounts were also examined to derive further information regarding Aboriginal landscape burning in different environments and to distinguish landscape burning from other uses of fire such as smoke signals and cooking fires.

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