The recent fire history of the table Mountain National Park and implications for fire management
van Wilgen, B.W.
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This paper provides an assessment of fire regimes in the Table Mountain National Park over the past four decades. We compiled a GIS database of all fires between 1970 and 2007 and analysed the fire regime in terms of the frequency, season and size of fires and the relationship between fire occurrence and fire weather. Most fires (90.5% of area burnt) occurred in summer and autumn, the ecologically acceptable season for fires. However, mean fire return intervals declined by 18.1 years, from 31.6 to 13.5 years, between the first and last decades of the record respectively. The area subjected to short (≤ six years) intervals between fires covered > 16% of the park in the last two decades of the record, compared to ~ 4% in the first two decades. A relatively small number of large fires dominated in terms of area burnt. Of the 373 fires recorded, 40 fires > 300 ha burnt 75% of the area, while 216 fires < 25 ha burnt 3.4% of the area. Fires occurred under a wide range of weather conditions, but large fires were restricted to periods of high fire danger. Prescribed burning was a relatively unimportant cause of fires, and most (> 85%) of the area burnt in wildfires. Areas subjected to short fire return intervals should be considered for management interventions. These could include the re-establishment of extirpated fire-sensitive species, the clearing of invasive alien plants and increased precautions for the prevention or rapid suppression of future accidental fires.
- RESEARCH: van Wilgen B