Why We Burn
With permission from the Michigan Prescribed Fire Council
Many ecosystems are vitally linked to fire. In fact, many native Michigan plant communities are part of fire dependent landscapes. The fires historically common in prairies, wetlands, and woodlands were caused primarily by lightning strikes and by Native Americans for a variety of reasons. By reintroducing fire, we are reinstating an essential ecosystem process.
Fire's exclusion in recent decades has had a dramatic effect on our landscape. Healthy prairie, wetland, and woodland ecosystems are rich with a diversity of plant and animal life. In the absence of fire, however, many fire intolerant plant species out-compete the native, fire adapted plants. As a result, our natural areas have a tendency to become thickets of shrubs or weeds with very little diversity. Fire clears the way for native plants by helping to control these invasive plants and enrich the soil. Also, fire blackened soil absorbs more solar radiation, thus increasing ground temperature and lengthening the growing season for native plants.
By giving a competitive advantage to native species that are adapted to fire, burning controls the invasion of undesirable plants. Fire allows diverse, native plant and animal communities to thrive in our natural areas.