Discussion paper, May 2014; written for a subject in BSc course.
Many Australian plant species and ecological communities have evolved to cope with, benefit from or even rely on fire (Bowman, 2012). There is little debate that the Indigenous peoples of Australia prior to European colonisation also used fire widely including for clearing vegetation and hunting, and that they effected some changes on the ecology of the continent.
The exact nature of those changes, and the role of fire specifically, however, is a more contentious topic, and hard to settle conclusively with the evidence currently available (Kirkpatrick, 1999; Kohen, 1993).
This paper will explore several of the key lines of argument and dispute, examine some of the evidence they are based on, and suggest how well current research may be able to answer the question (or not).