Historical and current human interactions with fire have stimulated pertinent debate and piqued present-day interest amongst fire scientists, government officials, fire managers and civil society. Landscape fires are key in African ecosystems, and are mostly human ignited, but rainfall patterns govern when and where they can occur. Currently, many social-ecological fire systems (i.e. interactions between climate, vegetation, fire and people) are poised to undergo adjustments due to global changes (e.g. land use, climate, and CO₂), which will alter the functioning of ecological systems and associated ecosystem services (e.g. climate regulation, availability of natural resources). Thus, understanding land use changes associated with burning is critical for determining future fire regimes, and for developing adaptive strategies and policies. Despite the importance of social-ecological fire systems, few studies have integrated an understanding of land use and land cover factors in savanna fire systems.

Bwabwata National Park (BNP) in north-east Namibia, situated at the centre of the Kavango Zambezi – Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA-TFCA) in southern Africa is an area of conservation importance, which is frequently burnt. The park has been a conduit for colonial penetration, war, social-political resettlement,  conservation and changing fire management approaches since the late 19th century. Here, community livelihoods are dependent on fire, and consequently, policy makers require evidence on the vulnerability of social-ecological systems to identify critical areas for fire management plans.

Glynis Humphrey will present her interdisciplinary findings on the human-ecological-fire-regime in BNP based on her PhD (2018) and current postdoctoral research project developments. This research is part of a larger multidisciplinary project investigating long-term vegetation and fire dynamics in BNP using repeat photography, modelling and palaeo-ecological datasets, based at the Plant Conservation Unit in the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town led by Associate Professor Lindsey Gillson. The project seeks to understand how patterns of rainfall, fire, land-use and fire management influence tree cover and grass biomass over decadal – centennial timescales. Glynis will also provide an overview of the wider project and future research at the Plant Conservation Unit.


Glynis has a B.Sc. (Hons) in Environmental Science from Rhodes University, an M.Sc. in Conservation Biology from the Fitzpatrick Institute of African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town (UCT), and a Ph.D. from the Plant Conservation Unit, UCT.  She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the PCU, and with work experience in South Africa, Peru, Botswana, Namibia and Tanzania, her professional interests are founded upon an established interest in applied management and understanding complex interactions between people, history, conservation policies and ecology in savanna environments under the threat of global environmental change.