An Eco-cultural investigation of coastal floodplain flora in north-east Arnhem Land

Project: Research

Project Details


Coastal floodplain Melaleuca spp. (paperbark) forests are iconic ecosystems of northern Australia with high eco-cultural values; however, they are undergoing widespread dieback. My cross-cultural Masters research (2017) with the Yolŋu (local Aboriginal people) Yirralka Rangers who manage Laynhapuy Indigenous Protected Area (IPA), revealed that feral ungulates (buffalo and pig) and sea level rise were interacting drivers of Melaleuca and räkay (Eleocharis spp.) decline, coincident with mangrove encroachment. This research raised questions about whether removal of feral ungulates would improve floodplain resilience to sea level rise by reducing erosion, altering soil chemistry and allowing Melaleuca and räkay recovery.
During my PhD candidature (2018-2020), I will again use cross-cultural and collaborative techniques to pursue the following questions:
1. Do Yolŋu have knowledge of past floodplain changes, specifically of: a) climate; b) feral ungulates; c) soil; d) vegetation; and e) salt-fresh water dynamics?
2. How do Yolŋu value alternative floodplain ecosystems: 1. Melaleuca-räkay; 2. Mangrove; and 3. feral ungulate dominated coastal ecosystems?
3. Using satellite imagery, can we detect past coastal ecosystem dynamics across the Laynhapuy IPA?
4. Does feral ungulate removal affect floodplain elevation, soil chemistry and vegetation characteristics?
Effective start/end date31/07/191/08/20