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Fire Risk Programme

The key terrestrial ecological processes identified within the Protected Environment are herbivory and fire. The management requirements of the Protected Environment are complex, and constrained by limited resources and capacity. Fire needs to be dealt with as a risk to biodiversity, infrastructure and agricultural loss through unnatural and unplanned fires.

Almost all vegetation types within the Protected Environment are potentially fire-prone. As is characteristic of vegetation of the Grassland Biome, lightning fires tend to occur particularly in the Karoo Escarpment Grassland. On private farms in the Karoo and Cape Midlands this vegetation type is regularly burnt to stimulate grazing (Roux and Smart 1979). In the other vegetation units of the Protected Environment, fires are much less frequent, but nevertheless can occur in years when the grass biomass is high. It is noteworthy that Low and Rebelo (1996) regarded the Eastern Mixed Nama Karoo (redefined as Eastern Upper Karoo by Driver et. al., 2005) as being the only vegetation type of the Nama Karoo Biome in which fire can be important in shaping communities. Fire is thus clearly a natural feature of the Karoo Escarpment Grassland and probably occurred fairly regularly in historical times. For other vegetation types of the Protected Environment, fire is likely to have been a rare rather than regular occurence, but could nevertheless have exerted a major influence on plant communities.

According to the National Veld and Forest Fire Act, No 101 of 1998, landowners are obliged to join the local Fire Protection Association (FPA) unless they take other precautions such as creating the necessary fire breaks.. There are four FPAs operating in the area of the Protected Environment, some of which are better capacitated than others. No FPA exists in the clusters on the Pearston side of the Protected Environment.. Some FPAs in the area have not been able to function as they should. It is envisioned that the Landowners Association will investigate options to address the lack of capacity of the FPAs and to ensure that fire risk is properly addressed within the Protected Environment.

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