How grass dances with fire | 7/31/2019 | Staff
DebraSDebraS (Posted by) Level 3
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There's a long-held myth that Johannesburg is the globe's largest urban forest, resplendent with an annual purple Jacaranda show. But before the planting of these (alien) trees for timber during the Gold Rush in the 19th Century, Johannesburg was a rich and varied grassland—a biome [community of plants and animals] that is one of the least protected in South Africa. Fortunately, the Department of Environmental Affairs prohibits plantation forestry in our grasslands, because of the negative impact it has on water resources and biodiversity.

Sally Archibald, Associate Professor in the School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences (APES) at Wits, explains that grass-dominated environments comprise 40% of Earth's land area and they are critical for the livelihoods of much of the developing world. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has made the preservation of such grasslands a priority.

Grasslands - Gold - Medalists—they - Stressors - Grazing

Grasslands are Darwinian gold medalists—they have adapted to almost all environmental stressors, including grazing animals and freezing temperatures. Some people might find it hard to understand, but protecting delicate grassy ecosystems requires fire. Controlled burning brings new life and enables grazing animals to benefit from the lush regrowth after fire.

Wits researchers were amongst the first to recognise the benefits of fire in grasslands, back in the 1920s. Professor John Phillips and his successor, Professor Edward Roux, demonstrated to farmers, land managers, and the global research community that the fires across the Highveld grasslands...
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