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Prescribed Fire Manages Ecosystems

Prescribed fire is a tool as old as time. Long before human interaction, trees, many species of native grasses, and herbaceous flowering plants adapted to be fire resistant. Some native plants require fire to thrive, releasing seeds after a wildfire flashes through an area. The Native peoples of North America utilized fire to rid areas of dead plant materials, release nutrients, and encourage re-growth of important plant species. As European settlers moved into areas, prairies were plowed under and forests were cut down for building materials and firewood. We know that at one time Ohio had lost a vast majority of its tree and prairie cover, however over the last 100 years we have actually gained a small percentage of this important area back! This is great news for species that rely on these unique ecosystems to thrive but without proper management invasive and non native species will begin to overtake our natives. We have found that areas inundated with invasive species can often harbor disease, lead to increased erosion, and disrupt natural beauty.

Fire burning in field
Controlled Burn - NRCS USDA Image

Fire Management In Forestry

Foresters use prescribed fire for 3 reasons:

#1 Get rid of woody debris. Fallen dead, diseased trees, and other snags provide fuel for uncontrolled wildfires that can lead to property damage and loss of beneficial trees.

#2 Eliminate invasive species. Invasive woody species often have thin, soft bark that is no longer adapted to be resistant to fires. Fire is a great natural alternative to herbicides and mechanical management.

#3 Encourage seed release of native species. Many native seeds respond well to disturbance by fire, allowing releases of nutrients and improving seed to soil contact.

Fire Management In Prairies

Prairie managers use prescribed fire for 3 reasons:

#1 Combat trees and shrubs, both native and non-native invasives. Natural succession leads many tree and shrub species to begin overcoming prairie species. Eastern red cedar, Autumn olive, honeysuckle, and boxelder are often found growing in unmanaged prairies.

#2 Make soil nutrients more readily available for prairie species.

#3 Remove standing dead debris left from annual plants.

All things considered prescribed fire is the least invasive yet most effective form of management available. Requiring minimal manpower and very little equipment, fire can be a cost effective solution that limits soil compaction and disturbance. If you are interested in conducting a prescribed fire on your land it is recommended that you contact an Ohio Certified Prescribed Fire Manager, sometimes known as "burn bosses". Some of these resources are available on our contractor's list.

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