Controlled ecological burn at Tygerberg Reserve

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 18 February 2011

The City of Cape Town is asking residents in and around Plattekloof to keep their windows shut to accommodate a 50 ha area ecological burn on the north-western slopes the Tygerberg Nature Reserve.

Aristea lugens. Endemic to Tygerberg and surrounds.

While burning takes place flammable items such as gas canisters should be removed from outside areas, and laundry should be taken off washing-lines to prevent odour contamination from smoke. Sprinklers may be used to dampen gardens and lawns as a further precautionary measure.

Tygerberg Nature Reserve conserves one of the largest remaining areas of the critically endangered Swartland shale renosterveld. Controlled burns are crucial for the management of renosterveld, as fire plays a fundamental role in its lifecycle. By removing the dense canopy created by mature vegetation, sunlight is allowed to penetrate at ground level, which helps with seed germination.

Too frequent fires can lead to a decline in slow growing species, whereas fires that are too infrequent lead to the domination of mature plants. Carefully managed burns are therefore necessary to obtain maximum species diversity. Another advantage of burning old vegetation is that it reduces fuel loads, which in turn reduces the risk of future wild fires. Renosterveld should burn somewhere between every 5 to 10 years.

The single biggest threat to renosterveld is the rapid encroachment of development which has led to its depletion and fragmentation. To conserve what we have left, it is necessary to simulate a natural fire pattern.

Renosterveld is renowned for its diversity of plant life, and the 309 ha reserve boasts 562 recorded plant species and new species are continuously discovered. To date, 23 plant species are threatened with extinction, and three are endemic to the reserve.

Tygerberg Nature Reserve will be closed to the public on 1, 2, 7, 8, 14 and 15 March 2011 to accommodate the ecological burn.

[The controlled burn scheduled for Tygerberg Nature Reserve in early March has been rescheduled due to unfavourable wind conditions. Residents and interested members of the public should diarise 14, 15, 22, 23, 28 and 29 March 2011 as the new dates on which the burn will be conducted. As with the first dates, these dates will also subject to favourable weather conditions.]

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