First Nations’ interactions with underground storage organs in southwestern Australia, a Mediterranean climate Global Biodiversity Hotspot

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Aims and background: Underground storage organs (USOs) have long featured prominently in human diets. They are reliable year-round resources, especially valuable in seasonal climates. We review a significant but scattered literature and oral recounts of USOs utilised by Noongar people of the Southwest Australian Floristic Region (SWAFR). USOs are important to First Nations cultures in other geophyte-rich regions with Mediterranean climate, with specialist knowledge employed, and productive parts of the landscape targeted for harvest, with likely ecological interactions and consequences. Methods: We have gathered Noongar knowledge of USOs in the SWAFR to better understand the ecological role of Noongar-USO relationships that have existed for millennia. Results: We estimate that 418 USO taxa across 25 families have Noongar names and/or uses. Additionally, three USO taxa in the SWAFR weed flora are consumed by Noongar people. We found parallels in employment of specific knowledge and targeted ecological disturbance with First Nations’ practice in other geophyte-rich floristic regions. We found that only in 20% of cases could we identify the original source of recorded USO knowledge to an acknowledged Noongar person. Conclusion: This review identified that traditional Noongar access to USOs is taxonomically and geographically extensive, employing specific knowledge and technology to target and maintain resource rich locations. However, we also found a general practice of ‘extractive’ documentation of Noongar plant knowledge. We identify negative implications of such practice for Noongar people and SWAFR conservation outcomes and assert ways to avoid this going forward, reviving Noongar agency to care for traditional Country.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)589-625
Number of pages37
JournalPlant and Soil
Volume476
Issue number1-2
Early online date23 Jun 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022

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