Fire can suppress the development of macrophyllous thickets

Gordijn, Paul
Ward, David
African Journal of Range and Forage Science
Publication Year: 
The ingression of woody plants into savannas, known as bush or shrub encroachment, has become a global concern. Fire has been acknowledged as a key factor in managing woody vegetation in savannas. This study assessed the role of fire in determining the total density, structure and composition of woody vegetation in Ithala Game Reserve, northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. We surveyed woody vegetation in comparable areas with different fire frequencies. In Combretum-dominated woodlands, there was no significant effect of fire frequency on the total density of woody individuals. In old field grasslands, the density of woody plants was greater in areas burnt annually and in areas burnt once every 10 years, compared to areas burnt once every 2–4 years. In these grasslands, areas burnt annually were dominated by woody plants <2 m in height. Herbivore and fire interactions may explain these results. Multivariate analyses also indicated a significant effect of fire frequency on woody vegetation composition. To control dominant encroaching trees such as Dichrostachys cinerea and Acacia karroo (Vachellia karroo), and the development of macrophyllous thickets, an intermediate fire frequency is required (one burn every 2–4 years).
Name of Journal: 
African Journal of Range and Forage Science
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.