Most of the vegetation types on the reserve are adapted to periodic veld fires. Exceptions are the indigenous forest patches in the kloof areas. The probability of fire spread would be expected to be maximal during the hottest and driest 4 month period of the year from December to end of March. The summer period from October to March is also the period with the strongest winds when westerlies, easterlies and south-westerlies predominate.
Khoi pasturalists used patch burning from about 2000 years ago and before them the San, which live in the vicinity had also used fire, although the extent to which they changed the pattern and frequency of lighting-caused fires is unknown. Intensive patch burning was also practiced by most farmers in the area to encourage the increase of grass before the reserve was proclaimed. This practice still occurs today from our northern neighbours to encourage proliferation of the “ Sewerjaartjies”, for commercial gain. This can be of detrimental consequences if uncontrolled fires escape the neighboring farms and sweep into Vogelgat.
The maintenance or restoration of a “natural” fire regime is the objective on the reserve. Although uncertainty and disagreement still exist regarding the details, it is now widely recognised that a “natural” fire regime must incorporate variability in seasonality, frequency and intensity in order to maintain biodiversity and resilience, including genetic variation in the long term. The “natural” fire regime will be determined primarily by the inherent rate of recovery of the vegetation after previous fire as well as climatic conditions, which together determine the flammability of the vegetation and thus the potential for the spread of fire. Thus a range of fire intervals (including occasional burning four to five years after a previous fire), as well as occasional fires outside the main ‘fire season”, must be considered as a prerequisite to maintain the natural biodiversity and resilience of the fynbos ecosystem.
History of fires