77 7 Connecting the champions of the Lake Eyre Basin rivers Richard T. Kingsford, Vol Norris and Michelle Rodrigo Introduction The free-flowing rivers of the Lake Eyre Basin mark the Basin as one of Australia’s more important cultural and natural systems. It has outstanding environmental, cultural and economic value, supported by rivers, lakes and floodplains that fluctuate between highly unpredictable boom and bust cycles. Floods bring spectacular biological productivity to the rivers and their floodplains. Vast areas are inundated, becoming a magnet to millions of waterbirds, fish, frogs and invertebrates (Kingsford et al. 1999 Capon 2007 see Chapters 3 and 4). The conditions trigger a prolific germination of plant life, providing primary productivity (Capon and Brock 2006) on which wildlife and livestock (Phelps et al. 2007) depend. People too have relied on these extreme and sporadic events to replenish water resources and, for Aboriginal people, they nourish a deep history of stories and life centred on these great rivers for tens of thousands of years (see Chapters 8 and 9 Fig. 7.1). The rivers Fig. 7.1. Aboriginal people were living on the Lake Eyre Basin rivers up to 50 000 years ago, with evidence of their ongoing connection to country clear everywhere, including these stone arrangements near Blackall in the Barcoo River catchment (photo, DATSIP Cultural Heritage Image Library).
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