Understanding how Indigenous people value rivers

Long-necked turtles are a favoured food source for Aboriginal people in northern Australia’s Daly River region. Credit: CSIRO Darwin
Long-necked turtles are a favoured food source for Aboriginal people in northern Australia’s Daly River region. Credit: CSIRO Darwin

Indigenous people value rivers in many ways. Rivers provide bush foods and medicines, they are part of a culturally significant landscape, and have the potential to sustain future water-related businesses and employment.

So it’s important to know what impact changing river flow patterns and water allocations could have on Indigenous communities.

As part of the Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge (TRaCK) program in northern Australia, CSIRO is recording Indigenous knowledge relating to water and quantifying the economic benefit to Indigenous people from water-dependent resources.

Results from one region indicate that northern long-necked turtles surpass the more iconic barramundi and magpie geese as the most commonly taken bush tucker food.

The researchers also realised that long necked turtles were an important food for some communities.

Northern long-necked turtles lay their eggs under water along the edge of billabongs, which need to dry and then flood for the eggs to hatch. According to CSIRO’s Dr Marcus Finn, turtles had not been not on the radar of most other interest groups. “If billabongs don’t fill any more because of water diversions or other land use changes, turtles won’t be able to breed and this will affect the food supply of Indigenous communities,” he says.

For more information: CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, Marcus Finn, Tel: +61 (8) 8944 8436, Marcus.Finn@csiro.au, www.terc.csiro.au

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