Bogong Moth aestivation sites – A pioneering archive for understanding the floral, faunal and Indigenous history of the Australian Alps

Presented by ANU College of Asia & the Pacific

The seminar will be on the plant and faunal remains preserved in the accumulating sediments at aestivation sites of the Bogong Moth (Agrotis infusa), in the crevices of granite tors in the northern Australian Alps. Analyses have confirmed the preservation of a diverse range of fossil material, including bird feathers, hairs of small marsupials occupying the rock crevice niche, fossil pollen and spores derived from the summit vegetation, and charcoal from fires in the immediate vicinity of the aestivation sites.

Aestivation site deposits are a unique terrestrial archive recording ecological change in the montane and sub-alpine environments for over 1000 years. Despite some chronometric difficulties, they provide an excellent record of the effects of local disturbance, such as fires, on the biome and provide insights into the impact of European settlement, on both vegetation structure and faunal biodiversity. The study provides evidence of cultural, ecological and climate changes at sub-alpine elevations in the northern Australian Alps from the late Holocene up to the present, and illustrates the great value that aestivation sites hold as terrestrial archives, signalling a need for further utilisation and investigation in light of rapid human induced climate change.