August 31, 2018
Originally enlisted in the 1970s as a labour force fighting ‘the war on weeds’ under the command of government agencies, Aboriginal land manager involvement has evolved to be increasingly guided by culturally-based aspirations. The Australian Government’s funding of land management by Aboriginal communities through ‘ranger’ programs aims to enable them to manage lands according to their knowledge and priorities, and have produced various positive outcomes for conservation, Aboriginal employment, cultural re-invigoration, and recognition of the value of Indigenous ecological knowledge.
David Newry and Tom Bach discuss a weed (‘moorrooloombong’ or Acacia farnesiana) in the bush near Kununurra
However, in the case of weed management, this approach is not working: the emphasis is on killing plants that are identified on invasive alien species lists prepared by government agencies. While Aboriginal people hold unique attitudes about invasive weeds and animals, these are rarely reflected in how rangers control them. Based on field research with Bardi-Jawi, Bunuba, Ngurrara, Nyikina Mangala and Wunggurr rangers in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, my former doctoral student Tom Bach observed that 27 of 35 weed control projects followed the government agency weed lists for species-led control. Of these, only 2 were successful in meeting Aboriginal cultural aspirations. In most of the other cases, the list-based approach generated frustration among Aboriginal rangers who felt they were engaged in purposeless killing. Read the rest of this entry »
August 17, 2018
Neo-Australian landscapes along RN11a in eastern Madagascar: Grevillea, Eucalyptus, Acacia…
Beyond the rice paddies, beyond the orchards of litchi, cloves, and coffee, beyond the rare patches of lemur inhabited natural forest, beyond the swidden fallows, a new landscape has appeared in lowland eastern Madagascar in the past half century. These ‘neo-Australian’ forests include four or five trees introduced from Australia that have, in many ways, become integral to regional lifeways: Read the rest of this entry »
June 11, 2018
The study of invasive plants and animals might be seen as the domain of biology and environmental managers. But in a recent piece I argue for a “critical” approach due to the deeply social nature of invasion landscapes, the power relations affecting the science of invasions, and the differential impacts of weed or pest control on lives and landscapes. By “critical” invasion science, I mean research that is informed by social theories, with a sensibility to questions of social justice and to the social construction of scientific knowledge. The piece investigates several aspects of invasion science ripe for critical analysis: the history of the science (to understand what the science is doing and why), the terminology and categories of analysis, and the highly contested social, political, and ethical context within which invasion management takes place. The piece conclude with four proposals for further work in critical invasion science and examples of the types of questions it might ask. Read the rest of this entry »
June 22, 2017
The terrifying and sad images emerging from last Saturday’s fires in central Portugal struck me in their similarity to the 2009 Black Saturday fires around Melbourne where I used to live. But the similarity is more than the day of the week, the record-high numbers of fatalities, the images of charred cars trapped along the road, and the human tragedy. The other similarity is the vegetation: a fairly impressive portion of Portugal is covered by “neo-Australian” landscapes of introduced eucalyptus trees, as well as acacias and hakea.
A quick and dirty look at the extent of the fire in comparison shows clearly that the fires spread largely in eucalyptus forests:
Map of location of June 17, 2017 fires (source: ERCC) on left, with fire areas juxtaposed manually on an extract of vegetation map of Portugal (source: Meneses et al. 2017). Yellow is eucalyptus; dark green is maritime pine.
Eucalyptus trees, as well as other elements of Australia’s vegetation, are of course highly fire adapted. Native Iberian cork oaks and pines are of course also no strangers to fire, but the question that has increasingly been raised in the press is to what extent eucalypts are to blame in the recent tragedy (in English, see articles for instance in Politico, LA Times, NYTimes). Read the rest of this entry »
February 21, 2017
Announcing a series of new publications on “invasive species”, all from the Socio-ecology of Acacia project in which I participated (funded by SESYNC and two German research institutes). Here’s why they are interesting: Read the rest of this entry »
October 17, 2016
Last month I gave the ceremonial first lecture of the academic year for our Faculty. The video is now online (see below). The presentation dips into a number of research projects I’ve contributed to in recent years in order to make a number of observations about the relationship between plants and people, notably with iconic ‘natural’ plants and problematic ‘invasive’ weeds. These observations include: Read the rest of this entry »