Friday, April 22, 2011
I would be hard pressed to list more than 20 sites (with any integrity) in the Ozarks that were burned during the 2010-11 fire season. On my commute home, I could only gin up a list of 8 sites that I plan to visit this growing season, so I padded the list in the event I somehow forgot about a part of the Ozarks I don't normally visit.
Yes, fire season is over until late July when growing season fires commence on glades in certain parts of the Ozarks--think St. Francois Mountains, White River Hills, those glades totally surrounded by dense, overstocked woods that won't burn when leaves are on the trees. What a bust. Not only were the weather conditions erratic, certain fire districts and weather forecasters issued burn bans and red flag warnings at the hint of dry conditions and winds 9 mph or higher. Of course, some of the warnings were warranted, like that time when the humidities plummeted to single digits and it had been 6 days since rain. But considering that many fire prescriptions are written with optimum windspeeds of 10-11mph to allow fire to move across the broad flat ridges, some of the burn bans were unwarranted and served as roadblocks to implementing a natural disturbance regime that has been practiced responsibly in Missouri for over 30 years. I kept track of all the burn bans that were issued when there were 10 inches, 5inches, 22 inches of snow on the ground. I also kept track of all the burn bans and warnings that were issued when it was actively raining and not even napalm would ignite the saturated fuels in the Ozarks. I moved to Missouri because I thought prescribed fire and resource protection were institutionalized here. I'm not convinced they are.
Anyway, a bad year for fire. Worse than 2009 when it rained and snowed all fall, winter, and spring.
So, as usual, I tend to migrate to those high quality parcels of land that did see fire this season. Among the stars of the week were a huge population of a dolomite glade fern, Adder's tongue fern (Ophioglossum englemanii) left, shooting stars, and the whole suite of spring glade plants that always look so fresh and young and new after a fire, yet their rootstocks are ancient and deep.
And woodlands! I revisited the site of a woodland restoration project from the 1980s today to find hordes of warblers and a landscape chocked of high quality forbs.
If you can only go out to one of these burned dolomite glades once a season (for some reason), wait until Memorial Day for an explosion of yellow glade coneflowers. I need not be reminded that biodiversity is maximized when the very natural disturbance processes that gave rise to the rich ecosystems to begin with are implemented once again.
Posted by Allison Vaughn at 7:37 PM