"Kangaroos Win When Aborigines Hunt with Fire: Co-evolution Benefits Australia's Martu People and Wildlife"
Australia's Aboriginal Martu people hunt kangaroos and set small grass fires to catch lizards, as they have for at least 2,000 years. The Department of Anthropology's Brian Codding found such man-made disruption boosts kangaroo populations – showing how co-evolution helped marsupials and made Aborigines into unintentional conservationists.
"We have uncovered a framework that allows us to predict when human subsistence practices might be detrimental to the environment and when they might be beneficial," says Professor Codding. "When subsistence practices have long histories, they are more likely to sustain ecosystem stability," he says. "But when there are sudden changes to the way people make a living on the land, expect the result to be detrimental to the environment."
The findings suggest that Australia might want to encourage small-scale burning to bolster wildlife populations in certain areas, Codding says.