From: University of the Witwatersrand
Published November 20, 2017 12:52 PM

Thinking Big by Burning Small

A recent paper by scientists from Wits University in South Africa shows how creative fire management can increase habitat for wildebeest and other grazing animals in national parks.

The work, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1365-2664.12956/full), shows that small, repeated fires can have a concentrating effect on animals, and create “grazing-lawn ecosystems” where food quality is higher and herbivores can see predators from further away.

The research was initiated through a collaboration between the University of the Witwatersrand and the South African National Parks (SANParks).  SANParks managers within Kruger National Park (South Africa’s largest protected area) have been managing fire since as early as 1957, with fires applied to achieve particular objectives.

However, recent self-analysis raised concerns that the fire-policy in the Kruger Park was resulting in a switch to fire-adapted grasses that excluded grazing animals who need higher quality graze such as wildebeest. Managers were specifically worried that large fires resulted in grazers spreading out into the large burn scars after a fire and reduced grazing pressure in the local area.

Read more at University of the Witwatersrand

Image: The Working on Fire team manages a controlled burn near the Satara Rest Camp in the Kruger National Park in south Africa. Working on Fire managed the controlled burn events for all the burns done in the study. (Credit: Jason Donaldson)

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