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Changes in perceptions and policies regarding fire over 50 years in the Kruger National Park.
BIGGS, HARRY*,1, POTGIETER, ANDRE1, 1 South African National Parks, Skukuza, 1350, South Africa
ABSTRACT- During the first half of the twentieth century, fire management in the Kruger National Park was poorly documented but described as haphazard. A brief era of active fire suppression in the early 1950s resulted in some very large fires, after which the first well-documented fire policy, a rotational block-burning system, was started, along with a long-term plot experiment examining fire frequency and season. Both these initiatives continued for 40 years with little or no challenge, the allegation eventually being made that the park was being homogenized by the regularity of fire and the concomitant intensity of particularly elephant herbivory. Because of beliefs underlying this allegation, and a growing wilderness lobby, park management decided to initiate a lightning-driven policy from 1993 onwards, but later planned a large-scale experiment to examine alternatives as well. In practice the former never worked (due to earlier season transmigrant fires dominating) and the latter never began, although much of its planning was embedded in a hybrid or integrated system which, after 9 years of attempted lightning policy, will now become the default system. The new system has elements of range condition, patch mosaic fire and lightning philosophies, and can best be described as pragmatic adaptive burning for biodiversity, elicited by rangers together with trasmigrants and lightning. The role of human perceptions shaping this evolution, is discussed.
KEY WORDS: Heterogeneity, Integration, Pragmatism, Adaptive