Fynbos and Fire

fire-2Fynbos is a fire-adapted vegetation. Scientific studies suggest that in the absence of regular fires fynbos biomes would become dominated by trees and can thus be viewed as a fire-dependent vegetation type, along with grasslands and savannas. The nutrient poor fynbos soils mean that the recycling of soil nutrients is essential for the survival of fynbos.  Fires are responsible to drive this cycle.  It also rejuvenates the vegetation by removing moribund growth and recycling precious nutrients back into the soil.  The removal of a chocking canopy allows light to reach the soil surface which allows germination of seed.

Fynbos shrubs that have been burned will re-sprout, and may take years to reach their formal size.  The open spaces that has been created promote luxuriant growth of herbaceous plants especially geophytes.

First geophytes to appear: Cyrtanthus sp. also aptly called Fire lily
First geophytes to appear:
Cyrtanthus sp. also aptly called Fire lily

The article below was published today by KnysnaPlett Herald to inform residents of Knysna and Plett  about the controlled burn that will take place soon.

KNYSNA NEWS – The public is requested to exercise caution during an upcoming planned ecological burning exercise. SANParks, Cape Pine and the Southern Cape Fire Protection Association are gearing up to burn hectares of fynbos in the Harkerville Section of the Garden Route National Park (GRNP) during April and May.

So says the area manager of the Knysna section of GRNP, Johan de Klerk. “Fynbos is a vegetation type which is adapted to fire and, more so, dependent on fire. Many species only recruit after a fire as seed release is stimulated to germinate. Without fire, there would be no fynbos.”

During the fire, areas of the popular Harkerville Coastal Hiking trail will not be accessible as well as the Kranshoek picnic area and the angling spots along the coast within the Harkerville section.

The controlled burn is a joint initiative between Cape Pine and SANParks and resources will be shared during the burn, with assistance from the Southern Cape Fire Protection Agency’s Working on Fire teams. SANParks vegetation ecologist, Dr Tineke Kraaij, says fire does not only facilitate the recruitment of fynbos, it also propagates alien invasive plants such as pines and wattles. “Provision therefore has to be made for dedicated alien plant clearing operations after the fire.”

The changing of biomes from fybos to thicket is a key motivator to burn. She says, “In landscapes where fire is kept out indefinitely, fynbos usually reverts to thicket vegetation or forest, as is the case of Harkerville. In order to maintain healthy and diverse fynbos, fire has to occur within acceptable limits of variation in terms of its frequency and intensity.”

She adds that fynbos fires should occur at intervals of 10 to 30 years. Natural fires typically occur during warm and dry weather conditions which result in high intensity fires, which is desirable from an ecological point of view.

In the Garden Route, fires may occur during any season, although fires need to be of sufficient intensity to facilitate good recovery of most species.

In the Western parts of the Fynbos Biome with a predominantly winter-rainfall climate, fires mostly occur during the hot, dry summers. In the Garden Route with its all-year rainfall, hot and dry conditions may occur any time of the year and particularly with berg wind conditions in winter.

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