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Research Highlights

Individual Highlight

Effects of prescribed fire on wildlife and wildlife habitat in selected ecosystems of North America

Photo of A firefighter is in the process of lighting a prescribed fire with a drip torch as a utility task vehicle follows behind.A firefighter is in the process of lighting a prescribed fire with a drip torch as a utility task vehicle follows behind.Snapshot : Prescribed fire provides an important resource management tool that is effective at maintaining or enhancing habitats for many species of wildlife.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Ford, Paulette L. Block, William M.
Research Location : North America
Research Station : Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS)
Year : 2017
Highlight ID : 1364

Summary

Prescribed fire affects wildlife in various ways. Population responses by species can be positive, negative, or neutral, short-term or long-term, and they often vary across spatial scales. Whereas prescribed fire can create or maintain habitats for some species, it can also remove or alter conditions in ways that render it unsuitable for other species. Furthermore, a species may benefit from fire in one situation but not another. Given the variations in fire and in species responses, the only real generalization one can make is that exceptions occur. Forest Service scientists and their research partners used a regional approach, focusing on selected vegetation types for review. Included were southeastern pine and mixed pine-oak forests, eastern coastal marshes, mid-western jack pine forests, sagebrush ecosystems of the Interior West, mixed-severity forests of the northern Rocky Mountains, subalpine and montane forests of the Canadian Rockies, southwestern ponderosa pine forests, desert grasslands, and shortgrass steppe ecosystems. They structured each regional account by reviewing historical and current uses of fire, and then discussed fire effects on wildlife and the challenges of using prescribed fire in each system. What they found was the benefits of prescribed fire far outweigh negative effects. The science of prescribed fire continues to provide better information and options for resource managers to incorporate into management plans. It should be applied within a structured adaptive management framework, which requires developing and implementing monitoring systems to evaluate the efficacy of specific fire prescriptions. Prescribed fire provides an important resource management tool that can be effective at maintaining or enhancing habitats for many species of wildlife.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

 
  • Ecological Research Center, Georgia
  • Ecosystem Management Research Institute, Montana
  • Illinois Department of Natural Resources