Australian fire history

8 Dec 2010

A paper in Quaternary Science Review (see ) claims Aborigines were not responsible for landscape fires and other environmental impacts shortly after their arrival, assumed to be around 50,000 years ago - but in  reality, an unknown. On long timescales fire activity in Australia reflects prevailing climate - less during cold glacial periods and greater activity in warmer phases. Once again, this might be a case of smoothing the data via computer simulation of a limited number of facts as the conclusions are contrary to perceived wisdom expressed elsewhere. Never the less the study did find some evidence of fire activity in Australia at shifts between warm and cold climate change episodes, a useful finding if we were to think in terms of catastrophism as the catalyst of such rapid phases of change. Landscape fires were particularly noticable between 70,000 and 28,000 years ago - which embraces the peculiar events around 35,000BC that involved the disappearance of megafauna in Australia. The study also said that for some 10,000 years, up until 18,000 years ago, the end of the last Glacial Maximum, fire activity was low. It renewed again in the Late Pleistocene era - a pattern that continued into the Holocene and is consistent in some ways with fire and climate trends globally.