An eco-cultural investigation of Melaleuca spp. dieback in North-east Arnhem Land, Australia
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 13:34 authored by Daniel Richard Sloane
Recently, Traditional Owners (TOs) of the Laynhapuy Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) in the Nothern Territory, Australia, expressed concern about the dieback of culturally significant coastal Melaleuca spp. (paperbark). Congruous with International obligations, mutual respect and best research practice on Aboriginal land, a collaborative eco-cultural approach was used to identify potential causal factors of dieback to inform local decision-making. Socio-cultural research was conducted with senior TOs through semi-structured interviews and ecological approaches were applied to investigate potential correlates of Meleleuca spp. dieback. Quadrats were sampled in "alive" and "dead" Melaleuca patches at five floodplains in the Laynhapuy IPA to determine differences in: demography, species richness, feral ungulate [buffalo (Bubalis bubalis) and pig (Sus scrofa)] damage, surface and sub-surface soil pH and salinity. Remarkably, the two research approaches similarly suggested that about 70% om Melaleuca dieback was suggested by TOs as possibly due to cyclone events and by ecological research as possibly acid sulfate soils, with implications for future research. The benefits of using both socio-cultural and ecological approaches were important for understanding the dieback as well as to empower local decision-making and ongoing research, highlighting the value of cross-cultural collaborations.