map

Landscape change

Research on vegetation change

The Tropical Savannas CRC has begun a research project into thickening and thinning of vegetation across the savannas.

The Dynamic Savanna, which began in 2005,  will develop better methods for quantifying woody vegetation change, then apply those methods to selected case study areas to investigate the nature, extent, causes, impacts and treatments of woody vegetation change across northern Australia.

To read more about the project, click on the Research Link at the bottom of the page.

The photo pairs shown on this page are from a survey assembled by historian Darrell Lewis and described in his publication Slower than the Eye Can See (2002). The survey came from Darrell's historical research on the VRD in 1980 when he was using photos from various archives. He noticed that many of the old images of present day locations looked somehow different, so he visited a few of the exact spots where the original photographs were taken from and re-took the photos. These visits confirmed his suspicions that what had changed was the tree cover, which seemed to have increased in density.

Darrell and other researchers like Dr Jeremy Russell-Smith of the Bush Fires Council of the NT realised that if widespread, such a trend would have implications for land management. The TS-CRC funded Darrell to conduct a more thorough comparison. He now has collected more than 100 of these photo pairs taken at various places across the Victoria River District and a selection of these photo pairs can be viewed below. The earliest date from the late nineteenth centrury.

Trends seen in the photo-pairs

An number of different trends are apparent in these photo-pairs.

  1. Most of the photo-pairs are based on a historical photograph located where people were active, in other words they tend to be clustered on the riverine flats. They are not necessarily representative of the VRD landscape as a whole.
  2. In many of the photos-pairs on the riverine flats, there seems to have been a "thickening" of the vegetation, often with dense populations of smaller trees replacing more sparseley distributed larger trees.
  3. In the landscapes away from the rivers, for example in the rocky escarpments of Jasper Gorge, the change in vegetation is not as pronounced.
  4. Significant change in vegetation cover is even seen since the 1950s. This raises the possibility that much of the vegetaion change observed has ocurred since the end of the Second World War.

The Photo Pairs

Arranged in chronological order.

  1893: The 'Ark' at the Depot Landing, Victoria River   1997: The site of the Depot Landing, Victoria River.

1893: The 'Ark' at the Depot Landing, Victoria River

1997: The site of the Depot Landing, Victoria River

  1914: The 'Leichhardt' at the old Bradshaw station landing, note homestead at right   1995: The site of the old Bradshaw station landing and the old homestead

1914: The 'Leichhardt' at the old Bradshaw station landing, note homestead at right

1995: The site of the old Bradshaw station landing and the old homestead

  1922: Plant horses at Humbert River Station   1995: Same site at Humbert Station

1922: Plant horses at Humbert River Station

1995: Same site at Humbert Station

  1950: View west over old Timber Creek   1996: View west over old Timber Creek

1950: View west over old Timber Creek

1996: View west over old Timber Creek

  1952: Limestone hills and flate near Kalkarindji   1999: Limestone Hills - same site

1952: Limestone hills and flate near Kalkarindji

1999: Limestone Hills - same site

   
   


Articles

Vegetation change in northern Australia

Slower the eye can see The Tropical Savannas CRC has published a photo history of environmental change in the Northern Territory's Victoria River District Historian Darrell Lewis looks at the district from the time of European… [read more...]

Contacts

Dr Jeremy Russell-Smith
Fire Management Consultant
Tel: 08 8922 0830

Fax: 08 8922 0833

PO Box 37346
WINNELLIE, NT