Macquarie University
01whole.pdf (9.64 MB)

Retracing the dispersal of rainforest food trees by east Australian Indigenous Peoples with genomic data

Download (9.64 MB)
posted on 2024-03-07, 02:07 authored by Monica Fahey

Over millennia, Indigenous peoples have dispersed the propagules of non-crop plants intentionally or accidentally via trade, seasonal migration or attending ceremonies. This has potentially increased the geographic range or abundance of many “wild” edible plant species around the world. However few phylogeographic studies have investigated anthropogenic dispersal as a factor of the distribution and demographic history of plant populations. It remains a challenge to separate the signal of anthropogenic versus non-anthropogenic dispersal with genomic data alone. This thesis showcases multidisciplinary research that incorporates plant genomics, historical research, and collaboration with Indigenous Biocultural Knowledge (IBK) holders to retrace the dispersal of culturally significant and edible rainforest trees by Indigenous Peoples in eastern Australia.

Chapter 1 outlines the development of an ethical and culturally appropriate research protocol for collaboration with First Nations peoples. Chapter 2 outlines a genomic screening method that can be used to identify non-crop plant species with edible fruit that show putative signals of dispersal by ancient Indigenous peoples. Chapter 3 revealed genomic patterns within Araucaria bidwillii (Bunya Pine) consistent with IBCK evidence that pre-colonial and colonial First Nations peoples translocated the species in its southern range. Chapter 4 demonstrated genomic evidence that First Nations peoples facilitated an upland expansion of Castanospermum australe (Black Bean) in its southern range. These findings illustrate that plant genomics can be deployed as a tool to rediscover Indigenous histories disrupted by colonial dispossession. It also yields insights to the long-term demographic and evolutionary impacts of plant translocations and raises questions about restoration goals and values.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction -- Chapter 2. Applying biocultural research protocols in ecology: insider and outsider experiences from Australia -- Chapter 3. Genomic screening to identify food trees potentially dispersed by precolonial Indigenous Peoples -- Chapter 4. Araucaria bidwillii (Araucariaceae) genomics suggest Indigenous Peoples adapted plant translocation practices under settler colonialism -- Chapter 5. Indigenous Peoples in eastern Australia facilitated dispersal and range expansion of the culturally significant Black Bean tree (Castanospermum australe; Fabaceae) -- Chapter 6. General discussion and conclusion


Thesis by publication

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Doctor of Philosophy

Department, Centre or School

School of Natural Sciences

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Emilie-Jane Ens

Additional Supervisor 1

Ronika Power

Additional Supervisor 2

Maurizio Rosetto


Copyright: The Author Copyright disclaimer:






178 pages

Former Identifiers

AMIS ID: 276218

Usage metrics

    Macquarie University Theses



    Ref. manager