Landscape Change and Indigenous Fire Use in the Namadgi Ranges in the Australian Alps over 16,000 years


  • Fenja Theden-Ringl
  • Benedict Keaney
  • Geoffrey S. Hope
  • Patricia S. Gadd
  • Henk Henk


We assemble an environmental history for three Carex gaudichaudiania fens in the Namadgi Ranges in southeastern Australia through a multi-proxy approach focusing on macrocharcoal and geochemical X-ray fluorescence (XRF) core. Sediment accumulation commenced from 16 ka, following alpine deglaciation and climatic amelioration. The landscape of the terminal Pleistocene, with establishing wetland and forest vegetation interspersed by frequent catchment instability, transitioned to a relatively stable and productive early Holocene environment, from 11.5 – 9 ka, associated with an increased fire frequency. From 9 ka, alternating cycles of detrital influx and organic productivity, with possible gaps in the sediment records, attest to a renewed period of landscape instability, which continued past the mid Holocene Pomaderris phase of Martin (1986). Rapid peat accumulation commenced from 3.4 ka, as did an increase in fire. Through the comparison of the environmental data to local archaeological records, we propose a variable Aboriginal contribution to catchment-specific fire activity during three distinct periods, that is between 8 and 5 ka, between 5 and 3.5 ka, including the utilisation of Nursery Swamp itself around 4ka, and from 2 ka until European occupation.