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Why do Australian rainforests occur as islands within the vast tracts of Eucalyptus? Why is fire a critical ecological factor in every Australian landscape? What were the consequences of the ice-age colonists use of fire? In this original and challenging book, David Bowman critically examines hypotheses that have been advanced to answer these questions. He demonstrates that fire is the most critical factor in controlling the distribution of rainforest throughout Australia. Furthermore, while Aboriginal people used fire to skilfully manage and preserve habitats, he concludes that they did not significantly influence the evolution of Australia's unique flora and fauna.
This book is a comprehensive overview of the diverse literature that attempts to solve the puzzle of the archipelago of rainforest habitats in Australia. It is essential reading for all ecologists, foresters, conservation biologists, and others interested in the biogeography and ecology of Australian rainforests.
Paperback re-issue, originally published in 2000.
Preface; 1. Introduction; 2. What is Australian rainforest 3. The sclerophyll problem; 4. The edaphic theory I. The control of rainforest by soil phosphorus; 5. The edaphic theory II. Soil types, drainage and fertility; 6. The climate theory I. Water stress; 7. The climate theory II. Light and temperature; 8. The fire theory I. Field evidence; 9. The fire theory II. Fire, nutrient cycling and topography; 10. The fire theory III. Fire frequency, succession and ecological drift; 11. The fire theory IV. Aboriginal landscape-burning; 12. The fire theory V. Aridity and the evolution of flammable forests; 13. Fire management and rainforest conservation; 14. Summary; References.
David Bowman is Professor of Forest Ecology in the School of Plant Science at the University of Tasmania. He uses a range of tools, including remote sensing and geographic information analysis, stable isotopes, ecophysiological analysis, mathematical modelling, biological survey and molecular analysis to understand how Australian landscapes have evolved in response to climatic change, varying fire regimes, the introduction of large vertebrate herbivores, and the impacts of contemporary and prehistoric management.
From reviews of the hardback: '... an important book for biogeographers and ecologists, but I suggest that it has also much to offer historians of science.' John Dargavel, Historical Records of Australian Science