Fire and Flood: the agency of more-than-human actors in wetland conservation

A/Prof. Dan Penny1, Dr Jo Gillespie1, Ms Nicola Perry1

1The University Of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

 

Here we consider the messy ‘unruliness’ of more-than-human communities in a protected wetland at the margin on Cambodia’s ‘great lake’ – the Tonle Sap.  Parts of the Tonle Sap floodplain are protected as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and specific human activities have been excluded from three core reserve areas.  Of these, the RAMSAR-listed Prek Toal site protects high-concentrations of globally-threatened water birds and their habitats and is said to the largest water bird colony in Southeast Asia.  Ongoing environmental change and increasing pressure on the wetland ecosystem led, in the late dry season of 2016, to extensive wildfires that destroyed approximately 8,000 ha of flooded forest habitat within the protected area.  Here we describe the concerns of proximal human communities to the ungovernable responses of the more-than-human; specifically, the relocation of migratory waterbirds away from the area set aside for their protection, and the likely successional changes in the wetland vegetation instigated by fire.  We consider the utility of rigid protected areas for the protection of fluid non-human communities, particularly in the context of regional and global environmental change.


Biography:

Dan Penny PhD is an Associate Professor in the School of Geosciences at the University of Sydney.

Dan’s research is focussed on the environmental history of the global tropics, particularly mainland Southeast Asia and central America. Dan applies expertise in physical geography to document the response of ecosystems to climatic variability and human activities over long periods of time. The aim of this research is to reveal the complex mechanistic interaction between the biosphere (including humans) and the atmosphere in order to better understand the Earth System.

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