Tropical Savannas CRC > Education & Training > PhD projects 2001-2007 > Landscape change, Kakadu National Park

TS-CRC Student project - The historical and cultural context of landscape change within the South Alligator River system, Kakadu National Park

University of California (Davis)

Aaron Petty


This project aims to understand the type of changes that have occurred in riparian (riverine) vegetation of the south Alligator River region over the past 50 years, and why those changes have occurred. The history of vegetation change is primarily determined by aerial photographs, which date back to 1950. This will be supplemented by more detailed information from the memories of people with a long association in the area. The history of land-use practices in this region will also form an important component of this research.

In order to understand the visual picture obtained from aerial photographs of the past, it is necessary to understand what is happening on the ground today. This is a process known as "ground truthing" For this project, Aaron selected a number of sites in consultation with traditional Murumburr and Jawoyn traditional owners. Some sites were suggested as areas of special concern by the traditional owners, others were mentioned as culturally important areas

At these sites the number, size distribution and amount of ground cover of the trees was determined, as well as the amount of seedlings, grasses, vines, shrubs, pig damage and litter cover in these areas.

Because the history of land management, and the human perception of landscape change are important components of this research, traditional owners and other knowledgeable people accompanied Aaron to these sites. They told Aaron about their knowledge of the history of the area, the cultural importance of the area, and the number and types of resources available, as well as any perceptions of change in those resources.

You can download the PhD Thesis from the link on the right. (You may need a good connection to the web as it is 11Mb in size).


Dr Michael Douglas, CDU

Professor David Bowman, CDU

Dr Rod Kennett, KNP


Landscape as Process - Aaron Petty PhD Thesis
Aaron Petty PhD Thesis - "e;Landscape as Process:An Exploration of Social and Physical Aspects of Ecology and Change in the Alligator Rivers Region, Northern Australia"e; [pdf 11.1 Mb]