Ecological burns scheduled for City nature reserves

Carefully managed burns are necessary to obtain maximum species diversity.

The ecological burn season kicks off with the City of Cape Town’s biodiversity management branch staff conducting burns at various nature reserves in February and March. The actual dates are dependent on weather conditions.

Ecologist Dr Tony Rebelo said prescribed burns were done when conditions were perfect: 32ºC at 30% humidity.

Approved potential ecological burns for this season are:

Blaauwberg Nature Reserve, 50.84ha, February.

The 50.8ha Blaauwberg Nature Reserve will burn in February.

Botterblom Nature Reserve, 2.9ha, February or March.

Table Bay Nature Reserve, Parklands Fynbos Corridor, 5.3ha, February or March.

Haasendal Conservation Area, 6ha, February or April.

Helderberg Nature Reserve, 20ha, March or April.

Meadowridge Common Conservation Area, 1.5ha, February or March.

Steenbras Nature Reserve, 100ha, February.

False Bay Nature Reserve, Rondevlei section, 1.14ha, March or April.

Zandvlei Nature Reserve, 5 to 10ha, March or April.

An aerial shot of the Greater Zandvlei Estuary Nature Reserve near Muizenberg.

Uitkamp Nature Reserve, Durbanville, 15ha, March.

Aurora Park Conservation Area, West Coast, 0.9ha, February or March.

Ariesfontein Conservation Area, Tygerberg, 25 to 30ha, February or March.

The City’s deputy mayor and mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment, Eddie Andrews, said carefully managed burns are necessary to obtain maximum species diversity.

Among the many benefits to burns is the removal of the canopy created by the mature vegetation that allows sunlight to reach the ground, which helps with seed germination. Fire also provided the critical germination cues of smoke and heat on which many of our unique plant species require to germinate.

While fires occurring too frequently can lead to a decline in slow growing species and reduced seed production, too infrequent fires, that is with an interval of more than 20 years, can lead to bush encroachment and the local extinction of species. Another advantage of burning old vegetation is that it reduces fuel loads, which in turn reduces the risk of wild fires.

Competent, trained staff from the Environmental Management Department (EMD) will work with the Fire and Rescue Service as well as Working on Fire and Volunteer Wildfire Services. EMD staff will ensure that the procedure is conducted efficiently and safely.