Natasha Moore – Rhodes University
Natasha Moore – SiVEST Environmental Consulting
Ian Meiklejohn – Rhodes University
Fires are a common and natural occurrence globally, and specifically on the African continent. The Drakensberg mountains are home to southern Africa’s high-altitude fire-climax grasslands, where fire is the dominant management tool. Fire is used to maintain grasslands in the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site (UDP WHS), located on the eastern escarpment of the KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg. This study aimed to investigate the spatial and temporal frequency of fires using remote sensing. Remote sensing offers a set of supportive tools for the management of this sensitive vegetation, specifically to assess the frequency and spatial extent of fires. Field assessments can then be used to assess the impact of fires. Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) active fire detection point data were processed to investigate the temporal resolution of fires. Landsat 5 and 8 imagery were utilised for conducting normalised burn ratios (NBR) to determine the spatial extent of the burn scars of fires. The remote sensing results showed the main fire season in the UDP WHS was from May to October, and annual burn scars from the available Landsat data for 1998 to 2017 ranged from 22.5% to 57.67% of the UDP WHS. The results from the remotely sensed data were used to select study sites for accessing the effects of fire frequency on soil properties. Remote sensing was shown to be an effective tool for monitoring fires in the UDP WHS, with a combination of satellite data producing the best results, and has the potential to be incorporated in fire management in the UDP WHS.