Burning to bring back Biodiversity

On 9 March 2021 a prescribed ecological burn was conducted on a 16 year old section of vegetation to restore the veld’s biodiversity at the Kenilworth Racecourse Conservation Area (KRCA).

Fire is an ecological driver in fynbos necessary for the regeneration of plants. Cape Flats Sand Fynbos is required to burn every 12 – 15 years in combination with the appropriate season (late summer, early autumn) and the intensity of the fire depending on the amount of fuel load or biomass in the area.

A section of 20.4 hectares within the Kenilworth Racecourse Conservation Area reached its age of vegetation maturity at 16 years. The section was last burnt in 2005 and was dominated by Searsia lucida, a woody herbaceous plant that changed the structure and composition of the veld. In time, the fire will have assisted in removing aged vegetation (decrease biomass), reducing the risk of wildfires posing a threat to infrastructure, traffic and residents; stimulate the germination of seeds lying dormant in the soil, prevent the extinction of local plant species. It’s a positive action for ongoing management and restoration plans for the conservation area.

Managing fynbos which is fire-prone and fire-adapted in an urban environment is challenging when implementing such ecological practices, and requires accurate and detailed planning. Constraints such as wind direction, residential areas, main roads, business parks and horse stables were of high priority to account for. When the brief opportunity arose with all factors in place, the fire was ignited and successfully conducted with help from the City of Cape Town, Working on Fire and Cape Town Environmental Education Trust (CTEET). The Landowner, Kenilworth Racing established in 1882, inadvertently protected the most undisturbed natural remnant of Cape Flats Sands Fynbos, entrusted and supported the sound ecological knowledge of the conservation managing authorities.

The fire was conveniently followed by a cold front, which assisted the evening crew monitoring the area for any flare-ups. The Kenilworth Racecourse Conservation Area would like to thank everyone who took part in every aspect of the burn, and also the public for their continued support towards the conservation area. We expect the fire to facilitate great diversity over the coming years.

Crews in action…

Photos taken two weeks post burn, showing new growth