Burning issues for conservation : A critique of faunal fire research in Southern Africa

Parr, C L
Chown, S L
Austral Ecology
Publication Year: 
Abstract Fire is a key ecological process in several biomes worldwide. Although many conservation agencies have the protection of biodiversity as at least one of their major goals, information on the effects of fire on fauna in these biomes is fragmentary. Here we provide an overview of the published research undertaken to date on the effects of fire on fauna using examples from Southern Africa. We found that few studies have examined the effects of fire on amphibians or reptiles, and work on invertebrates is likewise sparse. The majority of studies that have been published are observational reports, and few experimental studies have been undertaken using an experimental fire regime, or over appropriately long time intervals. Replication was often not reported and where this was done, it was generally inadequate. The majority of the studies failed to report the area over which the studies were undertaken and sampling unit size was often not reported. Despite the importance of fire duration, ignition method, season and time of day of fire, few studies investigated these variables. We conclude that at present the information on the effects of fire on fauna in Southern Africa is fragmentary and, consequently, informed management decisions regarding the consequences of burning policies on the conservation of biodiversity both within and outside protected areas are problematic. We recommend that future studies, both in Southern Africa and elsewhere, be based on a suite of large-scale and experimental approaches (the latter firmly grounded in the principles of sound experimental design), use non-classical statistics to explore the effects of large-scale or unreplicated fires, and where possible include baseline information such as that gathered in fragmentation experiments.
Name of Journal: 
Austral Ecology
Resource Type: 
Document Type: 
Journal Issue/Article
Grassland Society of Southern Africa

The Grassland Society of Southern Africa (GSSA) is involved and concerned with the science and practice of range and pasture management. This broad field involves primarily the use and conservation of natural resources. It encompasses applied fields such as livestock production, wildlife management, nature conservation, water catchment management and range and mine-dump rehabilitation. The disciplines include, amongst others, ecology, botany zoology, range and pasture science, animal science, soil science and genetics. This collection includes journal articles from the African Journal of Range and Forage Science as well as related articles and reports from throughout the Southern African region.