Tom's Blog

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Importance of fire with Midwest oak savannas

We have been burning our oak savannas at Pleasant Valley Conservancy "annually" for the past 20 years. They have always been dormant season burns, either late fall or early spring. These annual burns are part of the reason the PVC savannas look so spectacular.

This year, because of the corona virus pandemic, our burn permits have all been canceled. (Our principal oak savanna burn was planned for 40 acres, a substantial size.)

Although we have willingly complied with the burn ban, to help in our small way in control of a global tragedy, a few words about the importance of savanna burns might be relevant.

Burns are most important for the more open savannas, where the understory vegetation (and principal fuel) is prairie-like.

The first photo shows how lush this unburned vegetation is. With this sort of understory, it takes quite a while for this year's new growth to get started. That is why the controlled burn so dramatically stimulates the understory growth. Areas that have been burned are usually 2-3 weeks ahead of unburned areas.

Understory vegetation of  an unburned  bur oak savanna, March 2020

Similar vegetation in March 2019, just at the start of the controlled burn


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