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Assessing the impacts of fire on the vegetation resources that are available to the local communities of the seasonal wetlands of the Okavango, Botswana, in the context of different land uses and key government policies


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The Okavango wetlands in north western Botswana are the most fire-prone environment in Botswana. Most of these fires are anthropogenic. The fires in this environment are thought to impact the environment negatively and therefore practices that are associated with extensive use of fire have been strongly criticized. Despite this, there has been little work done to understand how these fires impact the wetlands environment and its dynamics, especially the vegetation resources that are used by the local communities in the wetlands. The objective of the study was to identify fire spatial and temporal trends in relation to settlement distribution, through the use of remote sensing, socio-economic and phytosociological surveys. The fire history results show that geographically there has not been any significant change in vegetation structure and that in fact fires may have promoted biodiversity. The results of analysis show an overall variance on vegetation structure of 23% whereas the rest are unaccounted for. There is a strong association between settlements, ethnicities, literacy and fire occurrences. The most fire-prone areas are inhabited by communities that have used fire in the past for various resource use practices.