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J Environ Manage. 2003 Aug;68(4):409-20.

A land management history for central Queensland, Australia as determined from land-holder questionnaire and aerial photography.

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  • 1Queensland Herbarium, Environmental Protection Agency, Mt Coot-tha Road, 4066 Toowong, Qld, Australia. rod.fensham@epa.qld.gov.au

Abstract

Features of the land management history over a 125,755 km(2) area of central Queensland, Australia were determined from a variety of sources. A random sample of 205 site locations provided the basis for determining trends in land use. Trends in vegetation clearing were determined using sequential aerial photography for the sample sites, revealing a steady rate averaging nearly 1% of the region per annum over 41 years. This measure of sustained clearing over a large region is higher than recently published clearing rates from South America. Land types have been selectively cleared with over 90% of the Acacia on clay land type having been cleared. A land-holder questionnaire pertaining to the random sites yielded a response rate of 71% and provided information on vegetation clearing, ploughing, tree killing (ring-barking or tree poisoning), and fire frequency, season and intensity. The land-holder responses were compared with independent data sources where possible and revealed no mis-information. However, land-holders may have been marginally less likely to respond if the sample area had been cleared, although this effect was not statistically significant. Ploughing and tree killing are variable depending on land type, but the former has affected about 40% of the Acacia on clay land type, effectively eliminating options for natural regrowth. The proportion of decade-site combinations that were reported as having no fires increased from 22% in the 1950s to an average of 42% for subsequent decades, although the reporting of more than one fire per decade has been relatively constant through the study period. The reporting of at least one fire per decade varies from 46% for the Acacia on sand land type to 77% for the Eucalypt on sand land type for decade-site combinations. Fires are more intense when associated with clearing than in uncleared vegetation, but the proportion of cool and hot fires is relatively constant between land types in uncleared vegetation. Nearly all fires reported were either in spring or summer and this seasonally restricted regime is probably at variance with Aboriginal fire regimes. This study describes the rapid transformation of central Queensland. This has yielded substantially increased agricultural production but may also result in a range of negative impacts and these are discussed.

PMID:
12877874
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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