Prescribed fire, or controlled burning, has been used as a land management tool for hundreds, and possibly thousands, of years. In the EcoLab, we will be using it to maintain our prairie plantings along the north edge of the pond. Fire is a natural component to any prairie habitat, and using controlled burns will help to maintain and promote growth of prairie species, increase plant diversity, and suppress woody vegetation and invasive plants. For some prairie plants, burning stimulates their growth or seed germination. This will also greatly improve our overall habitat in the EcoLab, and provide more food, cover, and nesting spaces for our native Indiana wildlife.
Unlike wildfires, prescribed burns are planned and controlled. Prescribed burns actually help to lower the possibility of wildfires, by decreasing the fuel load that wildfires need to spread. Trained professionals use a specific methodology to determine when, how, and if a prescribed burn can be conducted. Directly after a site is burned, it may look burned and desolate - but have no fear! Within a few weeks (if burned in early spring) plants will be popping up and within a couple months evidence of the burn is no longer visible.
EcoLab staff are planning for an early March burn, but weather can always alter those plans. Safety measures will be in place to ensure the burn is successful and so that anyone in the EcoLab at the time is aware of it.
For more information on prescribed burning, visit the Indiana Department of Natural Resources website or read an article that goes into more detail on the use and benefit of prescribed burns. For information on our prescribed burn practices or plans in the EcoLab, contact Stephanie Schuck at firstname.lastname@example.org or Dave Benson, Ph.D. at email@example.com.