, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 407-419
Date: 10 Jun 2011

Artists as Harvesters: Natural Resource Use by Indigenous Woodcarvers in Central Arnhem Land, Australia

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Abstract

Plant resources are used, managed and conserved by local communities in many parts of the world. However, very few studies have examined the site-specific factors and mechanisms that affect resource extraction. We apply methodology from the social and biological sciences to examine the cultural and socio-economic factors that influence the harvest practice and resource use of indigenous wood carvers in the Maningrida region of central Arnhem Land. Woodcarvers from this region use a small number of carving timbers with two species dominant, Bombax ceiba and Brachychiton diversifolius. There were many cultural differences in harvest practice, with artists from the Kuninjku/Kunibeidji language community harvesting a greater number of tree species, larger quantities per harvest trip and smaller sized stems. Socio-economic factors also played an important role in facilitating the collection of stems as artists owning a vehicle acquired more stems than those who did not. Harvest sites closest to the township of Maningrida had higher visitation frequencies than those further away. These influences on harvest practice have significant implications for the ecological sustainability of timber harvesting in this region and we highlight the need to examine such localised factors when assessing the sustainability of indigenous wildlife harvests.