A unifying, predictive hypothesis is developed that explains many facets of late Quaternary biotic change in Australia. Pleistocene faunal extinction (commonly called megafaunal extinction) is envisaged as the precipitating mechanism for much environmental change. The extinction is thought to be of the “blitzkrieg” type as presented by Martin (1973), and was followed by suppression through human hunting of the remaining large herbivores. Much vegetation was left uneaten because of these events, resulting in an increased standing crop of fuel. Increased fuel continuity and mass ensured that fires could become much larger and hotter than was usually possible previously. The changed fire regime eventually eliminated fire sensitive Gondwanan rainforest elements from almost all parts of the continent that were not protected. Aborigines responded to the changed fire regime with firestick farming. This maintained a high diversity as it ameliorated the worst effects of fires on medium‐sized mammals and possibly some plants. Twentieth century Australian mammal extinctions are the result of a trophic cascade that followed the cessation of firestick farming.
Archaeology in Oceania – Wiley
Published: Jul 1, 1990
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