Fire has been a feature of Earth for millions of years, and has been influential in both how our planet has formed, and the subsequent life that developed. Through the process of natural selection, plant and animal species have changed their size, shape, and abilities to survive.
Some species that encountered minimal changes to their environment (like those living in the sea), or that adopted effective systems in their early stages of development, have managed to be around for a very long time, such as some sharks, reptiles and insects.
Many of the plants that occur in South Africa, especially in the Fynbos (Western Cape), Grasslands, Savannah, and Bushveld areas, have adapted over time to fire to ensure their survival. Grass, for example, has most of its growing parts under the soil, so is able to re-sprout after a fire.
There are many Fynbos plants that cannot survive without fire, and some habitats need to be burned generally between 12 – 18 years. These periodic fires help to reduce fuel loads (See Chapter 5), disperse seeds, and provide the trigger for seeds already buried under the soil by rodents and insects to germinate.