Reducing Disaster Risks from Wildland fire Hazards Associated with Climate Change in South Africa
South Africa’s draft Second National Communication (SNC, 2010) predicts the following general climate change trends for South Africa: (i) Assuming a moderate to high growth in greenhouse gas concentrations, by 2050 the coast is likely to warm by around 1-2ºC and the interior by around 2-3ºC. After 2050, under emissions scenarios that assume little mitigation effort, the rate of warming is projected to reach around 3-4ºC along the coast and 6-7ºC in the interior; and (ii) Rainfall projections for the summer rainfall region of the country show a tendency towards wetting, and for the winter rainfall region towards drying.
While wildland fires are a natural feature of fire-driven ecosystems in the country, changes in climate are having adverse affects through altering the future occurrence of wildland fires, and the area burned, in various ways that involve weather conditions conducive to combustion, fuels to burn and ignition agents. The wildland fire situation has worsened significantly across South Africa during the past several years. There have been major and catastrophic fires in many areas. Land use patterns are also changing rapidly under the influence of diverse factors, including the expansion of towns and cities, causing an expanding Wildland Urban Interface (WUI), and exposing more assets to the hazard of wildland fires.
The Fynbos Biome is identified in South Africa’s Initial National Communication (INC, 2003) as the most vulnerable region in the country with respect to disaster risks from wildland fire due to patterns of urbanization, agriculture and potential impacts upon water catchment areas. Project activities are thus spatially focused in the Fynbos Biome.
The project will develop the adaptive capacity of: (i) Fire Protection Associations (FPAs); (ii) the individual members of these FPAs; and (iii) communities at risk in the WUI, to more effectively manage the risks associated with an anticipated increase in impacts of climate-induced wildland fires in the Fynbos Biome.
This adaptive capacity will be improved, as a result of the following suite of complementary project interventions: (i) expanding FPAs across the landscape, and rationalising their configuration and governance arrangements; (ii) adopting Integrated Fire Management (IFM) as a strategic adaptation approach to the increase in, and impacts of, climate-induced wildland fires; (iii) equipping, resourcing, staffing, financing and training of FPAs and FPA members to implement IFM ; (iv) improving the quality of weather data, fire danger forecasting, early fire detection information and fire spread models; (v) mapping of annual pre-fire season risks to facilitate the implementation of mitigation measures to reduce environmental, social and economic risks ; (vi) developing and implementing a suite of incentives to encourage a behavioural change in landowners and communities at risk; and (vii) improving the information and decision-support tools required to support the implementation of IFM.