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9 December 2010
Australian firestarters

A new study by a team of 19 scientists headed by palaeoecologist Dr Scott Mooney of the University of New South Wales indicates that Australias earliest settlers, who arrived around 50,000 years ago, did not significantly increase the fire activity on the continent, although the arrival of Europeans from 1788 did.
     The results of the new study, which correlated charcoal records from 223 sites with the archaeological record, go against the commonly held view that aboriginal fire use caused vegetation change and other environmental effects. Dr Mooney notes that "While this may seem contrary to prior studies, it should be remembered that it is only very recently that enough charcoal records have become available at a continental scale to analyse them with robust statistical techniques."
     Rather than human influence, the researchers suggest that Australian fire activity reflects and was driven by changes in the climate, with less activity in glacial periods and more in warmer interglacials. The report is published in Quaternary Science Reviews.

Edited from Physorg.com (6 December 2010)

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