In this inquiry students investigate how Aboriginal peoples' and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ knowledge of abiotic factors, such as fire, and its role in matter and energy flow of an ecosystem, informed the managed use of fire to promote growth of plants, provide sustainable habitats and manage the environment.

Low intensity fire burning through a patch of vegetation.

Low intensity burn cleans up country and allows the survival of plants and animals.

Biological sciences: Ecosystems consist of communities of interdependent organisms and abiotic components of the environment, matter and energy flow through these systems. (ACSSU176 )

Students further learn that in the absence of traditionally managed lands, plant matter (fuel) accumulates in high levels leading to dangerous wildfires can destroy communities and their interdependent organisms. Furthermore these wildfires release polluting carbon dioxide gas which flows through into the atmosphere (system).

The practice of setting fire breaks to manage land

Contemporary society is becoming increasingly aware that damaged environments can benefit from the reinstatement of Indigenous land management practices. This understanding and need has focussed scientific research into identifying the benefits of traditional regimes, their use to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions and the prevention of fire-related habitat loss.

Image of seed germination from scarification

Seed germination from scarification

In this inquiry, students are given the opportunity to see first-hand how the abiotic component of fire is an important component of the environment and in how it influences plant germination.

Through the student led design and conducting of these inquiries students develop and exhibit a range of science inquiry skills such as questioning and predicting, planning and conducting, processing and analysing and evaluating and communicating. Students discover that Indigenous Australians used some of the same science skills thousands of years ago when they noticed patterns and trends in plant response post fire.

Furthermore, students see how this traditional understanding of the abiotic factor of fire was utilised to manage and manipulate the landscape. This understanding ultimately shaped the development of the farming practice now known as firestick farming.

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