Current Work

CELP's research in Cape York focuses on three key areas:

The first area is the ecological impacts of current burning practices specifically looking at biodiversity and global warming. The research is based at a remote property in the northern part of Cape York where a group of land managers have attempted to keep fire out of the majority of their 36,000 square kilometre property and pursue sustainable forestry instead of pastoralism. Members of CELP have, since 1997, been measuring trees in areas of the property that burn regularly and areas that have been protected from fire. By recording the species and measuring the girth of the trees it is then possible to compare the biodiversity and amount of carbon stored within the burnt and unburnt areas.

The second focus of CELP's research is on the economic impacts of fire. The data collected as part of the ecological work has been used for economic analysis of alternative land uses that either include or exclude the use of fire. David Ockwell and Dr Jon Lovett have recently published a paper that investigates what would happen if a market were created for the carbon stored by trees in Cape York (see Paper 1). This market would be based on the value to future human generations of the carbon stored by trees in contributing to reduced global warming. The paper concludes that such a market, by economically rewarding carbon storage in trees, could lead to a large-scale change in land use on Cape York away from fire-assisted pastoralism towards sustainable forestry that excludes fire.

The third focus of the research is on social and political issues related to land use in Cape York. Policy makers must understand the needs and opinions of land users before they can design policy that will be effective in changing land use practices. Without such an understanding policies can often fail. CELP has responded to this by analysing how different discourses on the use of fire play out in Cape York ( this research was undertaken in partnership with Yvonne Rydin at the London School of Economics, see Paper 2) and conducting research that reveals the key opinions that exist amongst stakeholders in Cape York with regard to fire (see Paper 3). The research will also address the gaps between Euro-centric approaches to land management and the traditional land management practices of Aboriginal communities on Cape York.