A review of fire management practices in African savanna-protected areas
CITATION: Nieman, W. A., Van Wilgen, B. W. & Leslie, A. J. 2021. A review of fire management practices in African savanna-protected areas. Koedoe, 63(1):a1655, doi:10.4102/koedoe.v63i1.1655.
The original publication is available at https://koedoe.co.za
Publication of this article was funded by the Stellenbosch University Open Access Fund
The level of understanding of the ecological effects of fires has improved over the past century, but comprehensive information on the practical application of fire remains restricted to a few well-studied areas, and management information is scattered. This article reviews the goals of fire management practices in African savanna-protected areas, and the approaches that have been adopted to achieve them. We identified 15 distinct fire management practices described in 107 papers from 19 African countries. Fire management has evolved in response to changing ecological understanding, as well as the shifting goals of protected areas. Currently, fire management practices can be divided into those that use fire to achieve specific ecological outcomes, those where fire is applied to promote diverse fire patterns across the landscape without necessarily having a specific ecological outcome in mind, and those that use fire to achieve specific, non-ecological or social goals. In larger, heterogeneous protected areas, fire management practices may vary at different sites in order to achieve a range of goals. We compared the effectiveness of each practice in terms of achieving 10 broad goals. These included ecological goals, for example, reversing woody and social goals (e.g. maintaining community relationships). Conservation implications: Fire management remains an important ecosystem process that can be manipulated to achieve particular goals in protected areas. The choice of a particular approach, or approaches, will depend on the circumstances pertaining to a particular protected area, and we provide examples of situations where each practice could be most appropriate.