Fire team reviews map with Steve Smith, operator of Nanzhila Plains Safari Camp.
In September 2011, Zambia Program Manager Jeremy Pope led a team of fire ecologists into Kafue National Park to map vegetation and impacts from burning. Their goal was to collect baseline information that will help the team develop a remote-sensed fire-monitoring program.
Western Zambia’s 5.5-million-acre Kafue National Park is a fire-dependent ecosystem with extensive dry woodlands and open grasslands. Kafue’s fire regime has been significantly altered over time.
The Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) estimates that, historically, approximately 30 percent of the park burned every year. ZAWA’s current estimates reveal that approximately 80 to 90 percent of the park now burns annually. Ignition points occur within and outside of park boundaries and most result from human actions.
Some fire is good — in fact, needed — for select grasses and trees to generate. The problem is that too much fire changes how grasslands and forests function and affects the quality of those habitats. Excessive annual burning leads to a homogenous habitat with less capacity to support wildlife.The frequency and severity of the fires also are threatening the park’s stands of sensitive teak trees, creating major concerns related to park protection and management.
Ultimately, the project objective is to develop a monitoring program supported by satellite-based fire mapping that will provide essential information to fire and resource managers in Kafue National Park.
ZAWA staff will use this information to develop an effective fire-management plan, address specific ecological issues resulting from human-caused fires, and support sustainable landscape management for the park and surrounding community areas.
The integrated nature of this ZAWA-Forest Service-TNC team reflects the value we place in partnership. It also demonstrates how expertise can be effectively exported from the U.S. to help conserve priority places in Africa.