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Fires Did Not Create Major Landscape Changes, Study Reveals

First Posted: Jan 18, 2016 02:19 PM EST

Major landscape changes and erosion may have been driven by human factors, according to some researchers. In this latest study, a team of scientists investigated how humans influenced the environment prior to the industrial revolution.

The researchers examined how indigenous peoples influenced their landscapes in Australia. They found the use of fire by native Australians had a minor impact on the erosion of the landscapes which they occupied.

The researchers counted the atoms of beryllium-10 in rock and stream sediment samples from the southeaster Tablelands in Australia, which were compared to the total amount of beryllium-10 that the team predicted they would find. The researchers created a model effect of the Aboriginal burning-practices and the rate of erosion on their landscape.  

The team found that Aboriginal burnings were not intense or long enough to massively change the Tablelands' natural long-term rate of landscape erosion over a course of thousands or millions of years. Aboriginal burnings only began affecting natural erosion processes during the past few thousand years. It turns out Aboriginal burnings had much less landscape impacts than previously thought, according to the researchers.

The findings of this study were published in Geology.

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