Monday, June 22, 2015

Suppressing natural wildfires changes Wisconsin ecosystems

Wildfires were somewhat common the portions of Wisconsin until around the 1950s.  According to surveys conducted in 1958, pine barrens canopy cover was at 55% and a 2012 survey of the same barrens recorded shading at a 90% average.  While the species diversity didn't decrease, the ratios of the dominant species did change.  Previously, pine barrens were comprised of fire-tolerant trees and sun-loving forbs.  Those types of plants have become more rare as woody shrubs, shade-tolerant plants (mostly ferns), and fire-susceptible trees have had the opportunity to grow in those areas.  Due to the reduction of wildfires, Wisconsin as a whole is becoming a more homogeneous and uniform ecosystem.

prescribed fire is a tool used to mimic wildfires in ecosystems where regular fires no longer occur.  Image by USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station Archive, USDA Forest Service, SRS,

Source Article: Starved for fire, Wisconsin's pine barrens disappear