An assessment of the implementation and outcomes of recent changes to fire management in the Kruger National Park

03 November 2010

This paper reviews recent changes in fire management in the Kruger National Park, and assesses the resulting fire patterns against thresholds of potential concern. In 2002, a lightning-driven approach was replaced by an approach that combined point ignitions with unplanned and lightning fires. The approach aimed to burn an annual target area, determined by rainfall and fuel conditions, in point-ignition fires of different sizes. Most of the original fire-related thresholds of potential concern (TPCs) were incorporated into the new approach. The annual target area to be burnt ranged from 12 to 24% of the park between 2002 and 2006. The total area burnt generally exceeded the targets each year, and management fires accounted for less than half of the total area burnt. The fire regime was dominated by very large fires (> 5 000 ha) which accounted for 77% of the total area burnt. New TPCs were developed to assess whether the fire regime encompassed a sufficient degree of variability, in terms of fire intensity and the spatial distribution of burnt areas. After assessment and adjustment, it appears that these TPCs have not yet been exceeded. The point-ignition approach, and its evaluation in terms of variability and heterogeneity, is based on the untested assumption that a diverse fire regime will promote biodiversity. This assumption needs to be critically assessed. We recommend that the practice of point ignitions be continued, but that greater efforts be made to burn larger areas earlier in the season to reduce large and intense dry-season fires.