Short Communication

Fire management and research in the Kruger National Park, with suggestions on the detection of thresholds of potential concern

B.W. Van Wilgen, H.C. Biggs, A.L.F. Potgieter
Koedoe | Vol 41, No 1 | a248 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/koedoe.v41i1.248 | © 1998 B.W. Van Wilgen, H.C. Biggs, A.L.F. Potgieter | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 31 July 1998 | Published: 31 July 1998

About the author(s)

B.W. Van Wilgen,, South Africa
H.C. Biggs, Kruger National Park, South Africa
A.L.F. Potgieter, Kruger National Park, South Africa

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Abstract

This paper reviews the options for management of the savanna ecosystems of the Kruger National Park using fire. The major goals of management have shifted from attempts to use fire to achieve a stable vegetation composition, to one of recognising that savanna ecosystems are in constant flux. Fire is a major form of disturbance that helps to maintain a state of flux, and thus to conserve biodiversity. Three candidate approaches for fire management have been put forward@the lightning fire approach, the patch mosaic burning approach, and an approach based on the assessment of ecological criteria. These approaches differ in their underlying philosophies, but not necessarily in their outcomes, although this cannot be predicted with confidence. We propose, therefore, that patterns of fire frequency, season, intensity and spatial distribution be recorded and monitored, and that these patterns should serve as surrogate measures of biodiversity. Guidelines for the definition of thresholds of potential concern with regard to these patterns are discussed. The monitoring of both fire patterns and trends in plant and animal populations can be used to identify interactions between fire and the components of the ecosystem, and these in turn can be used to define a relevant research agenda. The role of management in monitoring and assessing fire patterns (previously regarded as a research responsibility) is emphasised. Convergence in the patterns of fire that result from the different management approaches could also serve as a basis for merging some or all of these approaches in order to simplify management.

Keywords

fire, management, savanna, research, monitoring.

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