Part 4:  Fire is a bad master, but a good servant


Integrated Fire Management practice promotes the beneficial use of fire.  There is a general consensus now that the Fynbos Biome needs fire. Fire can be an agent of rebirth or an inferno of destruction.



If the biome is burnt every seven to twenty years, ageing plants are killed off, many kinds of seeds burst into life, and bulbs start to grow again.


The delicate equilibria of ecosystems mean that it’s not as simple as merely controlling wildfires. Different species of fynbos plants are favoured by fires of different frequencies and moreover, this can also lead to a mass germination of invasive alien plant seedlings. If the dexterity is not in place to deal with the follow-up clearing of these invasives, it can lead to massive additional clearing costs at a later stage, and many very negative ecosystem service impacts, such as water loss, biodiversity loss, an impact on the productivity of land and much more – ironically including the likelihood of worse fires in years to come.


Though the system itself is complex, there is agreement on a single underlying principle: fires must be managed to preserve the Fynbos Biome.


The full photo essay is available here:
Story: Tessa Oliver, Andrea Egan, Akiko Yamamoto
Photos: All by Tessa Oliver, Project Coordinator unless noted as Working on Fire, Southern Cape Fire Protection Association, @SullivanPhotographyZA