Top of Table Mountain must burn - Study

2013-12-04 11:43

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Cape Town – Fynbos vegetation at the top of Table Mountain near the upper cable station needs to be burnt, according to a recent study.

“Fynbos needs to burn in order to regenerate, that area hasn’t burnt for around 80-90 years, as far as the records go back,” UWC Masters researcher and independent botanical consultant, Paul Emms, told News24.

“The species that occur there now are species that can survive without fire but certain species are declining and we need to kick-start it again and give it fire,” he said.

Emms’ study, which was presented at the SANParks Centre for Research Conservation, forms part of a 33-year-long vegetation monitoring programme at the Top of Table Mountain, close to the upper cable station.

One of the management recommendations from the study is for a rotational block burn programme on the western table.

In a block burn programme the area will be divided into blocks and burnt in a rotational cycle depending on the vegetation’s fire requirements.

Fynbos is a fire dependent ecosystem and functions optimally with a 10-15 year burn cycle to stimulate seed generation. It is also needed to get rid of dead material which Fynbos tends to accumulate.

Emms said that a fire would ensure that many of the species that are declining will come back in greater numbers promoting their long-term survival.

Table Mountain’s upper cable station is one of the busiest tourist destinations in South Africa and implementing a managed fire may be a challenging task.

Extensive planning

According to Table Mountain National Park fire manager, Philip Prins, a controlled fire is possible but not without proper planning.

“We’ve got a plan, so if we’ve decided to burn a block wherever it is it must be according to the plan and then we have to apply for a burning permit in terms of the City’s bylaws including air pollution and community safety,” he told News24.

Only after an extensive application process of 3-4 months does “planning on the ground” begin.

“According to the burning permit we can only burn at certain levels of temperature, humidity, and wind speed. So you have to wait for those suitable days before you can strike the match,” he said.

In his study Emms has recommended that any burning programme be carried out alongside an educational effort using interpretive signage showing the critical role of fire in fynbos.

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Read more on:    sanparks  |  cape town  |  fires  |  conservation
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