Although there is a wealth of knowledge of plant and avian responses to fire in the Great Plains, responses are not as well understood for arthropods, including insects, spiders, and their close relatives.
In Great Plains grasslands, grasses are typically the dominant plant life form because of their exceptional competitive abilities. When grasses are subjected to a period of intense grazing pressure, such as in the most recently burned patch of a patch burn grazed pasture, non‐grass plants in the same patch may experience a period of release from competition with the grasses.
Patch burn grazing is burning different patches of a pasture at different times and allowing animals to select where they want to graze. Originally conceived as an alternative to uniform utilization, patch burn grazing manages for vegetation structural diversity to conserve biodiversity while also sustaining the rangeland resource.
Fuel moisture is often listed as an important criteria for ignition in burn plans. Why does fuel moisture matter? Dryer fuels ignite at lower fire temperatures and burn more rapidly and more completely.
This is an interesting question given the diversity of standards in legislation and regulations related to certified prescribed burn managers (CPBM) across the region. In most states, statutory requirements for liability protection under either standard include a burn permit but are more variable with respect to the presence of a CPBM at the burn, written prescriptions, adequate personnel and firebreaks, and burn ban exemptions.
Prescribed burning is widely accepted as a critical management tool in the tallgrass prairie, however, the ecological effects of burning at different times of the season are poorly understood. In the Kansas Flint Hills, timing of fire is an important management issue that carries socio-economic as well as ecological implications.
Fuels management typically involves changing fuel structure or amount. Fuels management in woodlands conjures up visions of burning, tree felling, and mastication among other techniques, but grassland fuels management requires very different approaches.
Climate change has greatly impacted rangeland systems. Changes in rangelands are having dramatic effects on both social and ecological systems. Increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have contributed to a 1° C increase in average global temperature since the industrial revolution.
Grasslands have supported a broad array of life over the millennia. Not only have they supported rich biodiversity, but also they shaped the region’s stream flow and groundwater hydrology, contributed to carbon sequestration, and offered many environmental benefits.
One quantitative approach to prioritizing management actions uses a stepwise process. It starts by quantifying thresholds at which abrupt changes occur within ecological systems. In the case of prescribed fire in grasslands, thresholds can represent the fire intensity that results in death of a target species.