2006, pp 283-301


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Dryland regions are climatically defined through low annual precipitation, with in general dry season periods that can span over several months and take place once or twice a year. A combination of climate and soil characteristics defines the range of likely vegetation composition from grasslands and savannas to dry forests (van Wilgen and Scholes 1997). As these climatic and vegetation characteristics are suitable to recurrent fires, several authors consider such ecosystems as pyrophytic vegetations (Trabaud 1991, Scholes 1997, van Wilgen and Scholes 1997, Mistry 1998, Trollope and Everson 1999, Roques et al. 2001). Fire affects ecosystem dynamics in terms of species selection, regeneration, structure, nutrient cycling, and mortality. While this chapter is devoted to fire regimes, the effects of fires on soil moisture dynamics, infiltration and runoff production are discussed in Chapter 3; the effect on soil nutrient cycling and soil gas emissions are briefly analysed in Chapters 11 and 14. Additional discussion on the role of fire dynamics on different biomes, e.g. grasslands, shrublands, dry forests and savannas, can be found in Chapters 12, 13, and 15.