Reasons for Numerous Early Season Fires
With the good rainfall that was experienced during late summer this year it is certain that major fires will again occur during the dry season (August/September) later this year. To prevent large and uncontrollable dry season fires, management in the KNP has taken the decision to put in as many patch burns as possible early in the dry season (May/June). The reasons behind this decision are:
- For safety, to break up the fuel load in the veld with cool, low intensity fires early in the dry season (May/June), thus creating a mosaic of burnt and unburnt areas in the park. This template will assist us in the dry season to prevent the hot, high intensity fires from becoming unmanageable.
- Results from fire research conducted in the park has suggested that we may be able to knock back the bush encroachment tree species, such as Dichrostachys cinerea (sicklebush) and encourage tree species such as Acacia nigrescens (knobthorn) and possibly also other tall trees such as marula with early season fires. A positive spin-off from this is improved game viewing pleasure.
- Finally the implementation of the patch mosaic burning program to the KNP is an effort to carry out feasible interventions which produce the varying ecosystem effects we desire, taking into account the realities of our large park. Many believe this approach will emulate or reinstate the burning patterns that were applied to this area for centuries before modern man moved in, and which are believed to have shaped this savanna.
For those interested in more scientific or policy detail about these issues, contact Navashni Govender at Scientific Services, Skukuza.