Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management

Postgraduate research profiles


Alison Lullfitz

Phone: (+61 4) 4787 8784

Start date

Nov 2013

Submission date

Nov 2016

Alison Lullfitz

Alison Lullfitz profile photo


Vegetation Responses to Noongar Land Management Practices in Old and Young Landscapes


Ethnobotanical studies conducted with Aboriginal people, particularly in the north and desert regions of Australia, have revealed plant distribution patterns that correspond closely with traditional land use practices, leading researchers to conclude that traditional Aboriginal practices have played an important role in shaping vegetation patterns across the landscape. Historical and contemporary anecdotal evidence suggests that traditional land use practices of Noongar people were influential in shaping plant distributions in the Southwest Australian Floristic Region (SWAFR). However, little ethnobotanical work has been carried out with Noongar people that focuses systematically on plant distributions - a significant gap, given the SWAFR’s recognition as a global biodiversity hotspot.

Through collaborative research with Noongar Elders, this project will explore how specific cultural activities have influenced biodiversity within the SWAFR through a series of investigations examining vegetation patterns and processes in light of known cultural activity and landscape age. Specific areas of focus will be testing for evidence of Noongar plant resource concentration around cultural nodes and botanical differentiation between cultural nodes of varying historic use; phylogeographical investigations of plant resource movement; investigations of specific resource concentration processes (such as the transport of edible tubers and use of fire); and analysis of Noongar land use patterns in relation to landscape age and propensity to disturbance.

The research will be undertaken in collaboration with Noongar traditional owners in the South East Coastal Province of the SWAFR. More specifically, it will be carried out with Esperance Nyungar traditional owners in the Esperance region, and with the Goreng and Menang groups on country in the Pallinup River area.

Why my research is important

This project draws together knowledge and techniques from several disciplines to examine pre-colonial human influence on a globally recognized biodiversity hotspot. Its primary aim is to improve our understanding of the nexus between Noongar culture and contemporary floristic distributions, ultimately informing both biodiversity conservation in the SWAFR and connection of people with country. Given the SWAFR’s global significance and complex evolutionary drivers, conservation of its biodiversity is both paramount and challenging. Improving our understanding of ecosystem manipulation by its longest human occupants of at least 47,000 years will assist with meeting this challenge, particularly given current and welcome movements toward increased input of indigenous knowledge to biodiversity conservation strategies. This project may provide new techniques complimentary to those currently used for Noongar cultural mapping, and will result in an improved phylogeographical understanding of culturally significant plant taxa in the SWAFR.


  • Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) and UWA Safety Net Top-up Scholarship
  • UWA Alumni Annual Fund Grant


Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management

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