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Fall Fire for Effective Management: Is There a Seasonal Affective Disorder in Prescribed Fire?

Over the years, I have noticed several intriguing responses in natural communities to seasonal variations in prescribed fire. I've discussed this issue with many folks, have initiated several interesting, though largely unsatisfying, email strings on the subject and wrote an essay on the subject in a recent Missouri Natural Areas Newsletter. Through this process, I have found that the increasing utilization of spring burning, as opposed to the more historically relevant application of autumnal anthropogenic burning, is primarily driven by convenience rather than ecological soundness. And, that the assumptions underlying the prescription of spring fire (that either spring fire is harmless or that it is at least better than no fire at all) are potentially more wishful than accurate. Having observed significant losses in plant diversity and subsequent increases in weedy shrubs like sumac and blackberries in areas where spring fire has reigned supreme, my concern has only grown. Steve…

JUNCUS BRACHYPHYLLUS AND THE CASE OF THE MISSING PRAIRIES

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There are so many questions in field ecology. And there are those of us that obsess over the answers. We obsess because the questions gnaw at our psyches, needle the tender pink concavities of our brains, and boil up hot lava plumes of dissatisfaction as we dig deeper into the pleasure of nature study. They haunt us the way any puzzle haunts any person, only amplified. Instead of a word jumble over morning coffee, field ecologists face vast expanses of dead and living landscapes that have been scattered, smothered, covered, chunked, diced, peppered, capped and topped (not unlike Waffle House hash browns) across millions of years of ecological transition and evolutionary time. They have cooked into a steamy stew of wondrously bewildering patterns, pseudopatterns, and near trends. Good field ecologists savor their thick saucy sweetness.
Science, as a social function, thrives on questions. It is a progressive endeavor. In my estimation, the best field ecologists are those thirsty with qu…