Best Paper Award for UKZN Academics from Grassland Society of SA
UKZN’s Professor Colin Everson and Dr Terry Everson received the award for the best paper published in the African Journal of Range and Forage Science in 2016 at the Grassland Society of Southern Africa’s (GSSA) 52nd Annual Congress in Hoedspruit.
Their paper was titled: The Long Term Effects of Fire Regime on Primary Production of Montane Grasslands in South Africa.
The authors investigated the effects of different burning regimes on primary production and quality of grasslands in the mountainous ecosystems of the Drakensberg.
According to the Eversons, natural grasslands deliver essential ecosystem services through plant production, which enhances water supply, nutrient cycling, soil retention and greenhouse gas mitigation.
‘Although the condition of the Drakensberg grasslands is maintained by regular burning to provide essential ecosystem services such as water supply, controversy exists over how often burning should take place,’ said Dr Terry Everson.
Their research involved the analysis of a historic 30-year dataset, which revealed that these grasslands can be burnt either annually or biennially at any time between winter and spring without adversely affecting productivity. They also noted that winter burning is considered important for the survival of antelope as it stimulates new plant growth in early spring.
The Eversons noted, however, that protected treatments where fire had been excluded for as little as five years had significantly lower live biomass.
‘With the prospect of major climate change as a result of increasing CO2 levels and depletion of the ozone layer, the productivity data of this study will become an important benchmark for monitoring future climate change,’ said Professor Colin Everson.
Words and photograph: Christine Cuénod