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Landscape-level differences in fire regime between block and patch-mosaic burning strategies in Mkuzi Game Reserve, South Africa

CM Mulqueeny
PS Goodman
TG O’Connor


Patch-mosaic burning (PMB) is commonly advocated to create a mosaic of fire regimes that is believed to be more beneficial for maintaining biodiversity than the relatively homogeneous environment produced by block burning. This premise was examined for the 23 651 ha Mkuzi Game Reserve, in which all fires have been mapped for a period of block burning (1966–1984) and for a period of PMB (1985–1999), using a geographic information system. Patch-mosaic burning met with the expectation of creating a more heterogeneous fire regime as evidenced by a four-fold increase in average fire frequency, a greater area of reserve burnt per annum, an increase in the perimeter-to-area ratio of individual burns, and a greater proportion of fires occurring throughout the dry season as opposed to being concentrated toward the end of the dry season. In contradiction of expectation, size of individual burns did not differ between strategies, both periods were characterised by intense fires, and natural barriers to fire did not increase in importance under PMB. There was a reduced importance of arson fires and a markedly increased proportion of prescribed burns under PMB. Patch-mosaic burning has met in part its objective of creating a more heterogeneous fire regime.

Keywords: conservation areas, fire ecology, geographic information system, landscape ecology

African Journal of Range & Forage Science 2010, 27(3): 143–150

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-9380
print ISSN: 1022-0119