Abstracxt: Approximately 70,000 years ago people entered the landmass of Australia, rapidly expanding across the continent and developing complex cultural practices to enable the thriving aboriginal cultures encountered at contact. Over the course of tens of thousands of years Aboriginal people coevolved with their ecosystems developing a truly coupled socio-ecological system. In this talk I will explore various facets of the coupled natural-human system of Australia. Beginning with discussions of the colonization of the continent I will showcase research developed at SFI in November of 2019 that identifies the most probable paths of migration across the continent by early Aboriginal ancestors. Next, I explore work that demonstrates how Aboriginal people are integral to the function of Australian ecosystems; I show that when Aboriginal people were removed from remote ecosystems that extinctions occurred, suggesting that the human place in the Australian food web is central for functioning ecosystems. Finally, I highlight some new work that demonstrates the importance of Aboriginal fire practices on suppressing catastrophic landscape-wide fires. Through these three studies I demonstrate how a complex adaptive systems approach can help us understand the long-term coevolution of people and ecosystems.
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