(Press release issued by SANParks)

It’s official!

The planned ecological burn which was postponed last year is now burning. The steering committee concerned about the ecological wellbeing of the area made a decision guided by the weather to burn on  Monday, the 15th May 2017. Approximately 71 hectares on the Southern slopes along the Brenton-on-sea Road are set to burn which includes Portions 39 and 40 of the Uitzigt Farm.

According to Dirk Smit of the Southern Cape Fire Protection Association, the burn is a collective effort from all stakeholders because 85% of the fynbos scheduled to burn has not burnt in the last 30 years. Partners include Southern Cape Fire Protection Association (FPA), SANParks, Knysna Municipal Fire Services, Working on Fire, Eden District Fire Services – Deputy CFO, PG Bison, CapeNature, Knysna Municipality – Traffic Control and the landowners.’

All are adamant to restore Knysna Sand Fynbos and to provide habitat for species dependent on this ecosystem over the medium to long term. Portions 39 and 40 of Farm Uitzigt 216 are ideally located spatially and are relatively free from alien vegetation thus providing an excellent opportunity to benefit conservation for such a critically endangered ecosystem.

Maretha Alant, Environmental Planner of the Garden Route National Park adds that many fynbos species only recruit after a fire as fire stimulates seed release and germination. ‘In a landscape where fire is kept indefinitely, fynbos often reverts to thicket vegetation or forest. Without fire, fynbos will lose its true character and species,’ she says.

The remaining natural Knysna Sand Fynbos is approximately 1 478 ha (9.6% of the original extent) and falls short of the conservation target of 3 531 hectares.

Chief Fire Officer for Knysna, Clint Manuel, says ‘The actual exercise will be implemented by the Southern Cape Fire Protection Association (FPA). It will be done in phases due to the large hectares of land up for burning. There is also predicted follow-up rain this week.’  Fire close to an urban area is risky business, however there are trade-offs that have to happen to preserve a system that has not had fire for so long.

Fynbos is a vegetation type which is adapted to, and more so, dependent on fire.   Fynbos fires should occur at intervals of 10 to 30 years.  Natural fires typically occur during warm and dry weather conditions which result in high intensity fires, which is desirable from an ecological point of view.

Controlled burns such as the planned one, will help minimize the risk of uncontrolled, accidental wildfires. The Lower fuel load after the burn is said to result in lower fire risk for a few years.