The implications of a 14,200 year contiguous fire record from Goochs Swamp, NSW Blue Mountains, Australia, for human-fire-climate relationships
This paper interprets macroscopic charcoal (>250 μm), humification and loss-on-ignition over the last ~14200 cal. BP from Goochs Swamp, located to the west of Sydney in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. This study aimed to investigate relationships between humans, climate and fire through time, primarily by comparison of these palaeoenvironmental indices with archaeological evidence from the region. Climatic forcing can explain all periods of change in the history of fire at Goochs Swamp: fire activity was variable during the Lateglacial—Holocene transition, low during the relatively stable climate of the early Holocene, and high but variable after the onset of modern El Niño from the mid Holocene. Although the dominant control on fire in this environment during the Holocene appears to be climate, fluctuations in the late Holocene may reflect anthropogenic fire or human responses to climate change. The archaeological record of the Blue Mountains and other parts of the Sydney Basin illustrates that Aboriginal people altered subsistence, resource and land-use patterns in the late Holocene. We propose that these cultural measures were adopted to overcome new risks as the frequency of ENSO events increased, and the natural fire regime and resource reliability changed. These strategies perhaps included a more systematic use of fire. The most parsimonious interpretation of the evidence for changes in fire activity at Goochs Swamp in the light of nearby archaeological evidence is that Aboriginal people used fire within a changing climatic framework.