Blog posts from lab members and associates

Contemporary bunya gatherings

21 March 2021

Milton A U de Andrade Junior, Ph.D.

The bunya gatherings were traditional events celebrated by indigenous peoples of Australia, who would travel from many regions to the Bunya Mountains in Queensland every two or three years. The main purpose of the bunya gatherings was the harvesting of large cones containing nutritious nuts grown in bunya pines (Araucaria bidwillii). During these events, indigenous groups would trade and share items, food, information, cultural and social aspects of their lives.

Fourteen thousand kilometers away from the Bunya Mountains of Queensland, I grew up eating bunya nuts in the northern highlands of the state of Santa Catarina, a region in southern Brazil covered by Araucaria forests. Like with indigenous peoples of Australia, the tradition surrounding Araucaria pines and their nuts in Brazil accounts back to pre-Columbian occupation (Robinson et al 2018). 


Unfortunately, Araucaria forests in Brazil have overwhelmingly lost 97% of their original land-cover in just three generations. Currently listed as critically endangered by the IUCN red list of threatened species, the Paraná pine (Araucaria angustifolia) is under risk of extinction due to its massive clearance and fragmentation. The reasons include over-exploitation for its valuable timber, replacement by faster growing forestry plantations, and expansion of other agricultural crops (Thomas et al 2013).

In 2015, I moved to Brisbane to pursue a PhD on the environmental impacts of bioenergy development. Life in southeastern Queensland somewhat resembles the life I have had on the coast of Santa Catarina. Yet I could never imagine I would find in Australia these Araucaria nuts and a tradition I thought to be restricted to my original home country. On this note, I thank Audienne Blyth for kindly allowing me to collect bunya cones at her property in the hinterlands of the Sunshine Coast. Season after season during these past few years, Mrs. Blyth and I practice our own little version of the bunya gatherings, sharing stories and recipes with bunya nuts, her work as historian, and my research as a PhD candidate.  

The upsetting link between my research and this Brazilian-Australian Araucaria forests anecdote is that agricultural expansion has contributed to the critically endangered state of Araucaria pines in Brazil. As such, the development and expansion of bioenergy crops may have, directly or indirectly, added pressure over Araucaria forests in the past. I hope that my work will guide actions to avoid further negative impacts associated with bioenergy development into the future.














ROBINSON, M., DE SOUZA, J. G., MAEZUMI, S. Y., CÁRDENAS, M., PESSENDA, L., PRUFER, K., CORTELETTI, R., SCUNDERLICK, D., MAYLE, F. E. & DE BLASIS, P. 2018. Uncoupling human and climate drivers of late Holocene vegetation change in southern Brazil. Scientific reports, 8, 7800.

THOMAS, P. 2013. Araucaria angustifolia. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2013: e.T32975A2829141. Accessed on 07 September 2019.

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