Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Managing Oak Savannas in Dane County, Wisconsin

Another submission found by Lucias Machias.

The Pleasant Valley Conservancy State Natural Area Oak Savanna.

Many posts in this blog.  Just a few pictures and quotes as teasers.

Dealing with burn scars in prairie and savanna restoration

This is the time of year when restorationists are cutting lots of brush. Often, the brush piles get fairly large, and when they are burned big sterile patches are created. How to revegetate these scars?

Here is a suggestion that came to me from an experienced contractor.

As soon as the fire is cold, use a powerful backpack leaf blower to remove all  the ashes. The goal is to make the ground completely bare.

Then hand plant each scar with a good prairie or savanna seed mix. Be sure to include several grasses as well as a dozen or so forb species. Use a high seeding rate (~50 seeds per square foot).

However, even without planting, these scars should come back, since  soil does not transfer heat well, and only the top cm or so of the burn scar will be sterile. The important thing is to get rid of the ashes.

And from

Prescribed fires play several important roles.

• Removes oak leaves and litter, opening up the soil so that plants can grow faster. This also permits planted seeds to reach the soil.
• Helps perpetuate fire-dependent species.
• Helps in control of harmful insects or diseases.
• Improves wildlife habitat.
• Enhances the appearance of the site and increases the scenic values.
• Helps improve access to the savanna, making it easier to walk the property and survey the ecosystem.
• Top-kills woody vegetation, shrubs and small trees, but does not kill the oaks. Top-killing does not eliminate the undesirable woody plants, but sets them back.
• Kills invasive conifers such as red cedar.
• Top-kills brambles.
• Consumes downed brush and branches, making it possible for fires to carry better.
• Hazardous fuel reduction.
• Recycles nutrients from the litter into the soil.

Fire is one of the most cost-effective ways of maintaining a restored savanna, but should always be used as part of an integrated management system. Fire should never be used by itself. Also, fire is not a substitute for brush removal. In fact, it is undesirable and counterproductive to burn an unrestored savanna, because fire does not eradicate brush. Burns should only be conducted after the initial major restoration work has been completed.

Equipment for prescribed burns
Suppression equipment
  • Pumping system
  • Tanks
  • Pumps
  • Hoses
  • Nozzles
  • Backpack tanks
  • Handtools
  • Swatters
  • Rakes
Ignition equipment
  • Drip torch
  • Propane torch not recommended
  • Rake
Mobility equipment
  • Trucks
  • ATVs
  • Utility vehicles   And command-control equipment....Example: radios
Prescribed burns should not be carried out without adequate equipment for the job.

And a nice PDF that discusses controlled burns to manage Oak Savannas.

Another hat-tip to Lucias.

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