Protecting property, lives and the environment by promoting adaptive resilience to wildfire in South Africa
Part 1: Climate change fuels fires
Climate change portends bigger wildfires that are more difficult to control. As a result, wildfire management is becoming more important in order to reduce the damage to people, the economy and the environment.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the Fynbos Biome, the world’s smallest floral kingdom (of six), but also the richest per unit of area. Over 9,000 species of flowering plants occur in this tiny area at the southwestern tip of South Africa. The tiny biome covers about 46,000 km2 (about the size of Bhutan or Estonia), yet contains almost one fifth of all known African plant species.
The region is a global biodiversity hotspot, internationally acknowledged for its unique floral diversity. It is also an important economic hub, rich in agricultural production and an unparalleled tourism destination. Importantly, Fynbos is a fire-adapted ecosystem and many plants have seeds which can only germinate after a fire. Other plants wait till after a fire to flower – their brightly coloured petals rising up like a phoenixes through the ashes of what might first appear to be a devastated landscape. But the frequency and intensity of uncontrolled wildfires – exacerbated by climate change – risk exceeding the biome’s recovery capacity and causing damages on the economy and people’s lives.