Fires in Hluhluwe Game Reserve

Fires in Hluhluwe Game Reserve


Hluhluwe Game Reserve has become a very real favorite for overseas and local visitors when journeying through South Africa. When traveling in the winter months, you may encounter raging brush fires. This is not all bad. It is a natural ecosystem driver that has been shaping savannah ecosystems for thousands of years across Africa.

Herbivores and fire interact with non-living factors such as rainfall and soil fertility to shape the widely diverse communities in Hluhluwe Game Reserve. You will notice as you drive through the park the tremendous diversity in the structure and composition in the vegetation, which in turn supports a high species diversity of animals. Many of these communities are dependent of fire and would disappear without it.

In Hluhluwe Game Reserve the brush fires are set intentionally and are done according to a very specific scientific schedule. For example, if park rangers need to get rid of a specific and invasive alien shrub, they need a “hot and fast” burn. Ideal conditions to achieve this is when you have a 30% humidity factor, 30°C temperature and 30 km per hour winds.

 

The Hluhluwe Game Reserve Management of Burning tries to promote a diversity of plant communities throughout the species that populate the Hluhluwe hills. To do this we use point source burning which means fires spread from a point in a natural mosaic and can occur at any time of the year under a diversity of different conditions, resulting in different fire impacts in time and space. 

On average a third of the park burns each year, however this is very dependent on rainfall, in drier times very little of the park will be burned because of a lack of combustible materials. In wet years vast areas will burn in the winter due to dense vegetation. You may notice that animals pack onto burnt areas taking advantage of the fresh green grass which emerges after the burn.

There are a number of research projects in the park investigating fire and its role in the ecosystem.