Thursday, March 29, 2012

Park District plans to Burn Prairies

If the weather cooperates, the Darke County Park District is planning to burn prairies at two locations this Saturday, March 31st. Turkeyfoot Preserve (Bishop Rd.) in the morning followed by Shawnee Prairie Preserve in the afternoon. The Nature Center will remain open during the burn. Prairie Burns are crucial to health of a prairie ecosystem and allow for fresh growth and the removal of invasive woody species. Prairies are burned on a 3-5 year rotation.

In order to occur, each burn requires the correct wind and weather conditions, which can be a challenge during typical Ohio weather! Throughout each burn, staff members surround the fire to monitor all sides to ensure all is going according to plan.

Prairie burning provides many opportunities and benefits to the plants of a prairie ecosystem. Unlike trees, which grow in a fashion that does not benefit from fire, grasses are not hurt by fires in the early spring or late fall, since the plants are dormant at this time. Prairie burns are always scheduled during this dormancy. While dormant, a plant transports all of its food down into the root system and the above-ground portion dies off. As a fire burns through a prairie, it consumes dead matter from past seasons and turns it into nutrient-rich ash. These nutrients return to the soil and are quickly taken up by the plant’s root systems.

Prairie burns are a natural occurrence that would typically happen due to a lightning strike or some other method. There is also evidence that shows that Native Americans would manage prairie areas in order to ensure food sources would continue to be available. Native Americans may have actually created prairies where there was once forest!

If you have questions please email or call the Nature Center at 937.548.0165.

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