In each of our quarterly newsletters, we feature a fire-science “hotspot” where we bring into focus the fire science and management at different sites across the region.
Our Hotspots selections are below, in chronological order, with most recent first. Click each link to see full descriptions and photos.
Shortleaf pine and fire were historically important in this 18,000 acre natural area on the Cumberland Plateau, but fire exclusion had led to a closed canopy hardwood forest. Prescribed burns and other restoration activities have recently been initiated.
Latitude/Longitude: 35.46, -85.60
At a site on the Mark Twain National Forest in the Missouri Ozarks, researchers are studying whether targeted goat browsing may be an alternative to prescribed fire as a tool for restoring woodlands, by helping to reduce tree density and to increase understory growth.
Latitude/Longitude: 37.89, -92.02
This 3400-acre center in southern Illinois, established in 1950s, has been challenged by increasingly dense forests due to fire exclusion. Prescribed fire and other practices have increased sunlight, which has improved herbaceous plant cover.
Latitude/Longitude: 37.63, -89.16
This 200-acre preserve in north-central Kentucky is an outstanding remnant of “Big Barrens” vegetation. Dominated by oaks and grasses, the area hosts many species of conservation concern. Evidence of historical fires likely explains the persistence of rare plants. Fire was suppressed in the past, but after acquisition for conservation, the barrens community has responded quickly to mechanical thinning and prescribed fire.
In 1983, prescribed fire was introduced to Ha Ha Tonka in central Missouri, making it a very early example of successful use of controlled fire. Burned every 3 to 7 years, this oak-dominated woodland has a rich herbaceous layer where floristic quality has dramatically improved since fire management began.
Latitude/Longitude: 37.97, -92.76
Fire has been excluded for much of the past century in Hitz-Rhodehamel Woods Nature Preserve in southern Indiana, resulting in chronic management problems. Now, prescribed fire and mechanical thinning are reducing the midstory, which promotes diverse, fire-adapted plant communities, and prepares the next generation of oak seedlings to recruit into the overstory.
Latitude/Longitude: 39.25, -86.22
This wildlife management area on Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau historically supported shortleaf pine, but the species was overtaken by hardwoods following widespread mortality during a southern pine bark beetle outbreak in 1999-2000. Managers are now using prescribed fire, salvage logging, and commercial thinning to manage for oak-pine woodlands and savannas.
Latitude/Longitude: 36.07, -84.85
Some of the largest and most diverse remnant prairies in Texas’ Blackland Prairie region are in and near this Nature Conservancy preserve. Plant diversity and abundance has increased under current management, which consists of prescribed fire, grazing, and mowing.
Latitude/Longitude: 33.30, -96.24
Sandstone glades and surrounding woodlands on the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest in northern Arkansas are being restored with fire and other management practices. Plants and animals adapted to these open, dry, rocky sites include the collared lizard and Ozark calamint.
Latitude/Longitude: 36.04, -92.09
This site on the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky assesses the effects of commercial thinning and prescribed fire, particularly as related to forest health in light of a potential major disturbance, such as gypsy moth infestation.
Latitude/Longitude: 37.07, -84.20
On igneous mountains in southwestern Oklahoma, where the Osage Plains and the Cross Timbers ecoregions intertwine, land managers are using prescribed fire to improve forage for native grazers and improve habitat for wildlife species of concern.
Latitude/Longitude: 34.77, -98.70
In this Illinois state forest, land managers are undertaking an innovative oak restoration experiment, studying the impacts of various combinations of forest thinning and prescribed burning.
Latitude/Longitude: 37.52, -89.34
A long-term woodland restoration experiment on this wildlife area in southeastern Kansas assesses six different management treatments using various combinations of thinning and prescribed burning.
Latitude/Longitude: 38.26, -94.66
Located on the Cumberland Plateau and managed by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, this demonstration area displays the effects of varying fire frequency and fire seasonality on the plant community.