Prescription For a Fire
Updated: Jan 31
Many know that wildfires are the result of a natural event like a drought, lightning strike or perhaps an accidental fire sparked from human ignition. A dry shrub or tree act as a conductor for the current of electricity flowing from lightning, creating a spark, then spreading rapidly. Happening in grasslands, forests and prairies, they are restorative for plant and animal species as they provide nutrient rich soil for the ecosystem. For example, the serotinous cone needs fire to open and release their cotyledons after maturity. Leading to germination thus, new trees. However, wildfires create cause for human concern as they cannot be maintained, leading to severe damage in urban developments.
Not All Fire is Bad
Prescribed fire is the practice of setting intentional fires as land and resource management to inhibit growth of invasive species, control probability of wildfires and create fertile soil for new, native growth. Prescribed fire changes an ecosystem using soil disturbance (stripping soil), releasing nutrients back into the soil and reducing under-story vegetation to increase photosynthesis by allowing light to reach the forest floor.
Since 1958, the Florida Everglades have used man-made prescribed fires among the upland, wetland and sawgrass territories to channel new growth and gain control over land management. The sand pine and scrub ecosystems rely heavily on prescribed fires to increase germination and protect keystone species here in Florida. Like many other national parks, fire ecology is vital to the native diversity and sustainability of the Everglades. Between Broward and Palm Beach County, over 22,000 acres have burned as a result of 26 maintained, prescribed fires, where no damage came to the public or any local developments. Similar to the old slash and burn techniques, the Everglades Agricultural areas require controlled fire management for the sugar cane and rice fields that have over produced. The Florida Forest Service authorizes a total of 88,000 prescribed fires a year for farm owners and agencies combined. This means approximately 2 million acres are burned every year just in the state of Florida.
Promotes flower, fruit production & germination
Good for plants/trees that need fire
Creates healthy and bountiful ecosystem for wildlife
Reduces fuel in watersheds and forests preventing catastrophic wildfires
Removes the old and unfertile growth
2-12 months displacement of animal species requiring a thick ground cover
Risk and danger of prescribed fire reaching other areas
Smoke and soot affect offsite areas
Aesthetics considered unattractive to locals & tourists
What would happen if prescribed fires were banned for long periods of time?
Disruption of fire dependent, scrub ecosystem diversity
Loss of Pines, increase in hardwoods
Loss of keystone species like the Gopher Tortoise
Loss of native species like the Florida Scrub Lizard
Leading to reduced food sources for wildlife
Decreased flower production
Decreased fruit production
Increased fuel loads leading to increased severity of wildfires
Resulting in greater loss of Property, Habitats, Animals and even human lives
Does this change your mind about fire? Share your story with us!
What do you think about prescribed fires vs. wildfires? Have you or someone you know ever been a victim of an uncontrolled wildfire? Please let us know. Comment down below, we would love to hear your feedback! And don't forget to subscribe!
Written by Rachel Taylor