Original Articles

Changing perceptions of fire management in savanna parks

DOI: 10.1080/02566702.1990.9648211
Author(s): M.T. MentisResource Ecology Group, Department of Botany, Republic of South Africa, A.W. BaileyDepartment of Plant Science, Canada

Abstract

Parks are managed to preserve their pristine state. Fire has had a varied role in this, depending on shifting paradigms of savanna functioning. Formerly, an equilibrium theory of functioning prevailed where fire was at first an unavoidable evil, and then an evil to be avoided as far as possible. Subsequently, fire was regarded as natural and was applied with fixed return period and seasonal timing to compartments with fixed boundaries. Recently, non‐equilibrium theory has supplemented equilibrium models in explaining a savanna functioning that is partly event‐driven. In these terms savannas are understood to have high patch diversity arising from catenal variation, species individuality and the spatio‐temporal variability of events. Policy and practice in fire management is accordingly shifting towards regarding fire parameters (e.g. return period, seasonal timing, intensity and extent) not as scalars but as vectors (i.e. with frequency distributions), and to burning under diverse conditions.

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