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Rhodes University (2018)

The remote sensing of fires and their effects on soil properties in the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park

Moore, Natasha Jade

Titre : The remote sensing of fires and their effects on soil properties in the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park

Auteur : Moore, Natasha Jade

Université de soutenance : Rhodes University

Grade : Master of Sciences (MS) 2018

Résumé
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 the grasslands in the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park (UDP) World Heritage Site, 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, and to investigate the effect of fire frequency on soil properties in the UDP. Remote sensing offers a set of supportive tools for the management of this sensitive vegetation and specifically to assess the frequency and spatial extent of fires. Field assessments can then be used to assess the impact of fires. Remotely sensed data were used to determine fire frequency and the spatial extent of fires in the UDP. The 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 results from the remotely sensed data were used to select study sites for accessing the effects of fire frequency on soil properties. The remote sensing results showed the main fire season in the UDP 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. Remote sensing was shown to be an effective tool for monitoring fires in the UDP, with a combination of satellite data producing the best results. Soil properties were highly varied across the UDP. Environmental factors were shown to have a more significant influence on soil properties than fire frequency. This study highlighted the complex nature and diversity of fires and soils across the UDP.

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