Some plant species have evolved with periodic fire as part of a natural cycle of disturbance. Over time, in areas where fire naturally occurs, "fire-adapted" plant communities such as prairies and savannas have formed. In the absence of fire, these plant communities and the animals that depend on them give way to less fire-tolerant species, and the whole system is altered. Prescribed fire is a land management tool used to mimic natural fire disturbance in fire-dependent plant communities. We use prescribed fire to maintain our prairies and other appropriate plantings. Fire does three main things to renew these communities: clears dead material that blocks sunlight from reaching emerging plants and soil, it releases nutrients in the ash and helps fertilize new growth, and its retards the growth of less fire-tolerant saplings and weeds that can disrupt the community. Other benefits of prescribed fire are that it can be done in areas where mowing is not an option, and can reduce fuel loads that could lead to catastrophic wildfires in certain areas.
Safety is our first priority when using fire as a tool. The Field Station and Environmental Education Center (FSEEC) has a prescribed fire policy to guide its safe and effective use, and each areas that is burned has a detailed burn plan.
For more information on prescribed management of FSEEC properties, contact John Taylor