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Where is it safe to braai?

I am busy researching an article on braaing for the tourism industry and wondered if you could perhaps tell me where it is considered safe to braai and also legal? Perhaps you would like to say something about the effects of fire on proteas? This information would be of use to tour-guides and operators. 

David Lewis

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Any approved place is legal for a braai.  The ones that I know of off the top of my head are (I dont know if they are called this):

  • Buffelsbaai
  • Bortjiesdrift
  • Perdekloof (Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve section of Table Mountain National Park)
  • Sweet Water (Kommetjie)
  • Tokai Forest
  • Newlands Forest
  • Sandvlei.

Regarding braais and Proteas

Fires are essential to Fynbos.   All proteas require fire for regeneration.  Without fire they would go extinct.  Adaptations to fire include:

Serotiny: storing seeds in fire proof cones, and releasing seeds only after plants are killed by fire.

Myrmecochory: using ants to bury seeds in fire-proof ants nests.  Germination only occurs after fire has removed the vegetation and fire and temperature cues reach the underground seeds.

Senescence: Proteas senesce when the veld gets over 40 years of age.  They then die out without recruiting: i.e. become locally extinct.  Under natural conditions, Fynbos never gets this old.

Early reproduction:  Proteas start flowering at the same stage as Fynbos becomes ready to carry a fire.  By the time there is enough fuel to burn Fynbos most species of proteas have sufficient seeds to maintain the population.  There are a few exceptions: these occur in habitats that retard fire and only burn every 2-3 fire cycles unless the veld is allowed to get vey old. 

Burning Fynbos too frequently results in patchy fires in which pockets of proteas survive and set seed. Far more dangerous are aseasonal fires.  Fires in winter and spring result in major population collapses of serotinous species due to long periods of seeds lying on the soil and being predated or washed away.  Ideal fire season for serotinous species is Jan-March.  Fires following rains results in incomplete burns and much litter does not burn.  Larger seeded proteas do not germinate under these conditions and where there is a lot of litter nor do serotinous proteas as the seedlings are buried too deep in litter.  Ideal season of burn for large-nutted proteas (Mimetes and Leucospermum) is in the Berg winds before rain, preferably in Feb-April before the first heavy rains. 

Other important roles of fire include:

Removing diseases and pests:  By burning herbivore, disease and parasite loads are reduced.   Most Fynbos herbivores, parasites and diseases can cope with fire, but levels of these are reduced allowing seedlings to recover.  Most important are soil and water borne dieback and scab diseases: a hot fire is required to sterilize the soil if many Fynbos plants are to recover following the fire.  For this a hot fire is required.

The ideal ecological season for burning is January to March.  This is when the veld would naturally have burned. Unfortunately it is not safe to do so around settlements and human infrastructure.  Fortunately enough natural and run-away fires occur to compensate for the unnatural fire regimes required for safe burning by managers.

It is often argued that fires are too frequent due to humans starting them.  It is true that fires are more frequent, but not true that fynbos is burning more frequently.  What has happened is that the huge historical fires (1820? from PE to Swellendam) have been replaced by lots of more local fires.  But for any one patch of Fynbos the mean fire frequency has not changed much.  Fynbos is adapted to fire and by 20 years old will burn readily at any  opportunity, be it a rockfall, lightning, cigarette, braai fire.  Historically most fires originated "elsewhere" and were spread by wind.  Today more fires originate locally and are stopped by firefighters.

All the above are true for the western Cape (Nieuwoudtville to Swellendam, perhaps even George).  What the natural fire regimes are in the eastern Swartberg and summer rainfall area is not as clear cut, but in principle the above probably applies, with more fires under autumn and spring Berg Wind conditions than in the western Cape.

Without fire there would be no Fynbos.  For the past 200 000 years since human occupation braais have been maintaining Fynbos. 

Long live the braai.

Tony Rebelo

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