Lessons from a century of evidence-based fire management

Posted 2 March 2022 by under Announcements & Notices • Journal: African Journal of Range & Forage Science
Lessons from a century of evidence-based fire management

Since prehistory, fire has been influential as an ecosystem process and has been used by people as a tool to support livelihoods and maintain landscapes worldwide. This is especially true in grassy ecosystems, where landscapes and ecological systems are fire-adapted and fire-dependent and where, even today, people are reliant on fire to manage resources (e.g. grazing areas and important food plants).

The African Journal of Range & Forage Science, Volume 39, Issue 1, 2022 is a Special Issue relating to fire and is titled, "Friend or Foe? Lessons from a century of evidence-based fire management in grassy ecosystems". The research presented in this Fire Special Issue contributes towards improving understanding, implementation, and use of fire as one of the key tools that managers have at their disposal to promote biodiversity and manage grassy landscapes. Fire, either from lightning or humans, have and will be with us for a long time. However, fire frequency, season, intensity, and dominant ignition sources are changing.

The Special Issue includes diverse perspectives that examine the evidence from ecological and social disciplines on fire management in grassy ecosystems across the world. More than a century of fire experiments and applied fire management and suppression, together with modern technological advances in fire detection, mappings and monitoring, offer a strong foundation for evidence-based fire management.

This African Journal of Range and Forage Science, Fire Special Issue is dedicated to Winston Smuts Watts Trollope for his contribution, commitment, inspiration, support and a lifetime of work to Fire Ecology, with a tribute compiled by Navashni Govender, Sally Archibald, Susanne Vetter and Corli Wigley-Coetsee.

Papers featured in this issue include Pooley et al. (2022) who provide a historical overview of using fire science (usually through experiments and data analysis) and expertise to implement fire management strategies within savanna and grasslands of Southern Africa. The paper recognises that the local and indigenous uses of fires have largely been left out of the debate and calls for more incorporation of traditional burning practices. Four papers report on the effects of fire on the herbaceous layer (Bombo et al. 2022; Dabengwa et al. 2022; Findlay et al. 2022; Meller et al. 2022), all of which show that how fires were applied (varying seasons, frequencies and intensities) was crucial for improving grass functionality, lending support to the idea that pyrodiversity is required for maintaining and increasing herbaceous diversity. 

These papers and more can be read at no cost until the end of April 2022 here

Caption: Winston Trollope is central to any story of fire research in southern Africa. He is known for not only his incisive ecological insights, but also his ability to demonstrate his learning in practical, useful ways to the varied inhabitants of the region.This special issue contains a special tribute to Trollope. 

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