This is an environmental history of humans and wildfire on the Cape Peninsula, from the practices of Khoikhoi herders to the conflagrations of January 2000. The region's unique, famously diverse fynbos vegetation has been transformed since European colonial settlement, through urbanisation and biological modifications, both intentional (forestry) and unintentional (biological invasions). In all the diverse visions people have formed for the Peninsula's iconic Table Mountain, aesthetic and utilitarian, fire is regarded as a central problem. Fires – and humans are the major cause – were regarded as a threat to trees, structures and the indigenous vegetation. Burning Table Mountain shows how scientific thinking on fire in fynbos developed slowly in the face of strong prejudices. It also traces the disjunctures between popular perception, expert knowledge, policy and management. Human impacts were intensified in the twentieth century, and Burning Table Mountain supplements short-term scientific data with proxies on fire incidence trends from historical records.
PART I: FIRE AT THE CAPE FROM PREHISTORY TO 1900
1. Fire at the Cape: From Prehistory to 1795
2. Fire at the Cape: British Colonial Rule, 1795–1900
PART II: FYNBOS AND FIRE RESEARCH MANAGEMENT, C.1900–99
3. Science, Management, and Fire in fynbos: 1900–45
4. Science, Management, and Fire in fynbos: 1945–99
PART III: FIRE ON THE CAPE PENINSULA, 1900–2000
5. Fire Geography and Urbanisation on the Cape Peninsula
6. Conserving Table Mountain
7. Afforestation, Plant Invasions and Fire
8. Socio-Economic Causes of Fires: Population, Utilisation and Recreation
9. Fire on the Cape Peninsula, 1900–2000
Appendix 1: Cape Peninsula vegetation
Appendix 2: Fire Causes
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Simon Pooley is a Junior Research Fellow at Imperial College Conservation Science, UK. He co-edited Wild Things: Nature and the Social Imagination.