Tom's Blog

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Fire Management in Midwest Oak Savannas

We have been burning oak savannas and oak woodlands at Pleasant Valley Conservancy for 20 years. In the early years we made lots of mistakes, as there were no sources of good information on the use of fire. (The Internet was still in its early stages.) As the years have gone by, our mistakes have been less and the sizes of our burns have been bigger.

See past posts of Tom's Blog for summaries of our annual spring and fall burns. (To access posts of earlier years' burns, do a Search for "Fire" and "Savanna" in the search box.)

In 2015 I was asked to give a presentation on "Fire management in oak savannas" at the annual meeting of the Prairie Enthusiasts, which prompted me to assemble photos and data for a Power Point presentation. I finally found time this past winter/early spring to convert that presentation into a PDF, which is provided in this link.

Here is a brief precis from the introduction to the tutorial:

"Oak savannas are fire dependent communities. Fire management in oak savannas differs from that of prairies or oak woodlands. This document provides details on how to conduct an oak savanna burn.

Fire is especially important in oak savanna restoration. An oak savanna restoration project should not be initiated if fire is not an option. Ideally, fire should be used annually for at least 10 years. After 10 years, fire can continue to be used annually, but should be used at least two out of every three years indefinitely."

Early stage in an oak savanna burn. October 2002
This was the first time this savanna had been burned,
and to get good burn coverage the burn was run as a headfire.

The second photo shows the first burn we did in the ridge-top savanna (Unit 12B/11B). At that time, although there was good fuel (oak leaves), the fire did not carry well because of all the downed timber and coarse woody debris. Here Kathie is doing extensive interior lighting (stripping), literally "forcing" the savanna to burn. As the years went by, the savannas burned more readily and did not need so much work to burn.

The tutorial goes into details on the savanna burn process.


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