Photo Archive

South Africa: Fire in Fynbos and Other Vegetation

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Fig.1. The fires which started in the Cape region on the weekend of 16 January 2000 (see country report on Current & Archived Significant Global Fire Events) burned in the Fynbos vegetation, embedded exotic pine plantations and viticulture areas. The total area of Fynbos in the mountain catchment areas in the Western Cape Province cover ca. 800,000 ha.

 

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Fig.2. The Cape Fynbos flora consists of more than 8500 species of flowering plants, gymnosperms, and ferns. The Fynbos are highly fire-adapted plant communities and require fire-return intervals of several decades to ensure regeneration and avoid overmaturing and biodiversity impoverishment. The photograph shows Erica versicolor.

 

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Fig.3. Exotic coniferous plantations established in a highly flammable Fynbos environment are threatened by wildfires. Photograph site: near Jonkershoek.

 

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Fig.4. Gleichenia ferns represent high loads of understory fuels in Pinus pinaster plantations and an increased fire risk.

 

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Fig.5-6. Prescribed burning inside pine plantations (Pinus pinaster) is applied for fuel and high-intensity wildfire reduction.

 

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Fig.7. Disposal of slash by controlled pile or broadcast burn on the Cape region.

 

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Fig.8. Fires (veld fires) occurring at the interface between wildland and residential areas threaten the suburbs of villages and towns.

 

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Fig.9. Moist and arid South African savanna represent another fire-adapted plant community which is regularly affected by wildfires or human-caused fires. Photograph site: Kruger National Park (1.9 million ha).

 

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Fig.10-11. Fire maintains open habitats for wildlife and fire-adapted savanna plants (upper photo: savanna annually burned in Kruger National Park). Fire exclusion (lower photograph) leads to bush encroachment and moribund vegetation which cannot be utilized by wildlife and domestic animals (same site as upper photo, but excluded from fire for 35 years).

 

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Fig.12. Smoke-haze over the Southern African continent: A common picture in areas which are not industrialized and where free-burning vegetation fires and the use of fuelwood for domestic cooking releases high amounts of trace gases and aerosols which affect the regional and Southern hemispheric atmosphere.

 

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Fig.13. In the 1980s scientists detected high ozone concentrations (red) during the dry season over the Southern tropical Atlantic region by using satellite sensors. It was assumed that this regionally atmospheric disturbance was caused by widespread vegetation burning on the Southern African subcontinent and in South America.

 

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Fig.14. The Southern Tropical Atlantic regional Experiments (STARE) with its Southern African Fire-Atmosphere Research Initiative (SAFARI-92) research campaign clarified and confirmed the hypothesis that tropospheric ozone is generated by emission products from vegetation fires (see literature list at the end).

 

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Fig.15. The SAFARI-2 research was based on fire emissions measurements on the ground ....

 

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Fig.16. ... and airborne measurements in smoke columns of large experimental burns.

 

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Fig.17. ... using a flying laboratory (the flying DC-3 lab of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry).

 

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Fig.18. The research has been published in a book and a special issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research (see references below).

 

For more information on fire in South Africa please visit the IFFN archive South Africa.

Major summary publications of the Southern African Fire-Atmosphere Research Initiative (SAFARI-92):

van Wilgen, B., M.O.Andreae, J.G. Goldammer, and J. Lindesay (eds.) 1997. Fire in Southern African savannas. Ecological and atmospheric perspectives. The University of Witwatersrand Press, Johannesburg, South Africa, 256 p.

Journal of Geophysical Research Special Issue 1996. Southern Tropical Atlantic Regional Experiment (STARE): TRACE-A and SAFARI. J. Geophys. Res. 101, No. D19, 23,519-24,330.

and

Van Wilgen, B.W., C.S.Everson, and W.S.W.Trollope. 1990. Fire management in Southern Africa: Some examples of current objectives, practices, and problems. In: Fire in the tropical biota. Ecosystem processes and global challenges (J.G.Goldammer, ed.), 179-215. Ecological Studies 84, Springer-Verlag, Berlin-Heidelberg-New York, 497 p.

Other Publications

Wildland Fire Management Handbook for Subsahara Africa

 


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