Tuning Into Fire Frequency

“How often should I burn?” is a question I’ve gotten more than a handful of times when talking with landowners about doing prescribed burning on their land, be it restoration or range management. While we currently have some good ideas about historical fire frequency in regards to natural lands management, we don’t have a sure-fire answer, and I’m not sure we’re really supposed to. Fire has always been and always will be highly variable in time and space, even with human application.

Read Chris Helzer‘s post above for his thoughts on this topic.

The Prairie Ecologist


It’s a question prairie ecologists and managers have been wrestling with for many years.  Unfortunately, research on the impacts of fire management is somewhat limited and often contradictory.  Much of the best research has come from Konza Prairie in the flint hills of eastern Kansas, but many have rightly pointed out that translating flint hills research to other prairies – especially eastern tallgrass prairies – can be tricky.

At Konza and other western tallgrass prairie sites, frequent application of fire (in the absence of grazing) tends to increase the dominance of grasses, and decrease the abundance and diversity of wildflowers.   However, prairie ecologists and managers working in eastern tallgrass prairies (particularly in Wisconsin and Illinois) point to numerous prairies that have been frequently burned for decades with no apparent loss of plant diversity.  Those experts make strong arguments against applying western experience with frequent fire to eastern prairies.  Unfortunately…

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