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Rediscovering Aboriginal dispersal pathways

In a preliminary study we uncovered the dispersal of a rainforest food tree by prehistoric Aboriginal people of northern NSW.

We will expand this exciting research by using cutting-edge and transdisciplinary tools in partnership with Aboriginal people to rediscover deliberate prehistoric plant dispersal pathways along the Australian east coast. This new project funded by the Australian Research Council (DP180102188) is a collaboration with Macquarie University (Emilie Ems et al.), starting in early 2018.

By working on three unrelated species with similar disjunct distributions, we may detect significant ‘cultural’ vegetation patterns that will challenge current assumptions about 'natural' plant distributions. New associations between plant biogeography and deliberate Aboriginal manipulation of Australian environments will benefit cultural heritage, land management and restoration initiatives. Our target species include: Black Bean (Castanospermum australe), Black Walnut (Endiandra globosa) and Bunya Pine (Araucaria bidwillii).

Some of our relevant publications

  1. Rossetto M, Ens EJ, Honingh T, Wilson PD, Yap JYS, Costello O, Round ER, Bowern G (2017) From Songlines to genomes: prehistoric assisted migration of a rain forest tree by Australian Aboriginal people. PLOS ONE 12(11): e0186663
  2. Rossetto M, Yap JYS, Kooyman R, Laffan S (2015) From ratites to rats: the size of fleshy fruits shapes species distributions and continental rainforest assembly. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 282:20151998.