The Foundation’s Head of the Plains properties contain the largest contiguous acreage of rare sandplain grassland and heathland habitat under the Foundation’s ownership. Therefore, managing and protecting the unique plant species associated with these habitats is a high conservation priority.
People commonly associate fire with its destructive characteristics, but extensive research has shown that it can be a vital natural process that many rare habitats and species depend upon for their continued survival. Fire prevents woody shrubs from encroaching into rare sandplain grasslands and heathlands and opens up patches of bare ground where seeds can germinate. Many plant species have adapted to need the application of fire to germinate or increase growth. For these reasons, prescribed fire can be a valuable tool for many land managers and conservationist professionals.
We conducted comprehensive research to document the effects of prescribed fire applied during different seasons on rare plant species and overall vegetation communities to inform management decisions about when and under what conditions to employ this management tool. We also documented environmental variables and fire behavior during burns to assist our understanding of plant species response to particular prescribed fire events. All of this information is being analyzed is in the process of being published.