Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Study Finds Benefits to Burning Flint Hills Prairie in Fall and Winter

04.08.2014

Kansas State University researchers have completed a 20-year study that looks at the consequences of burning Flint Hills prairie at different times of the year. It finds that burning outside of the current late spring time frame has no measurable negative consequences for the prairie and, in fact, may have multiple benefits.

The study was conducted by Gene Towne, research associate and the Konza Prairie Biological Station fire chief, and Joseph Craine, research assistant professor, both in the Division of Biology. They recently published the study, "Ecological consequences of shifting the timing of burning tallgrass prairie," in the peer-reviewed scientific journal PLOS ONE. The study is the most comprehensive on seasonal burning ever conducted.


Kansas State University

Burning in the Flint Hills is typically concentrated in late April. The time frame stems from research conducted more than 40 years ago.

The Flint Hills are 82,000 square miles of unplowed tallgrass prairie that stretch from eastern Kansas to north-central Oklahoma. The region is an important area for grazing cattle. In a typical year, ranchers annually burn thousands of acres of grassland to reduce the abundance of undesirable trees and shrubs while promoting nutritionally rich grass for that summer's grazing.

Currently, burning of Flint Hills prairie is typically concentrated in late April. The time frame stems from research conducted more than 40 years ago.

"Burning in the Flint Hills has been a scientific and political issue for at least 80 years," Craine said. "Burning the prairie is ecologically important to Kansas grasslands and to ranchers in the region. But when everybody burns at the same time, it becomes a source of contention for cities downwind of the smoke and creates legal issues when clean air standards are exceeded."

The PLOS ONE study uses 20 years' worth of burning data collected at the university's Konza Prairie Biological Station. In 1994 large, replicated watersheds of the native prairie were set aside. Over a 20-year period, each section was burned annually either in the fall, winter or spring. This enabled researchers to look at what effect burning during a particular season had on the vegetation long-term.

They found that when the prairie is burned in fall or winter, grass composition and production was not negatively affected compared to burning in the spring.

"This research indicates that ranchers do not have to restrict their pasture burning to only late April," Towne said. "Burning earlier in the season offers increased flexibility in ensuring that the pasture gets burned without reducing grass production."

Several benefits also were found for burning in the fall or winter.

Grasses in areas burned in the winter or fall had more time to respond to precipitation, which reduced their susceptibility to mid-season drought. Burning in the fall and winter also resulted in a more diverse prairie with more cool-season grasses. These grasses are available earlier and are of a higher forage quality for cattle.

By burning when many animals are active, fires in the late spring can devastate wildlife. Snakes, turtles, prairie chickens and other nesting birds are less likely to be destroyed during fall and winter burns, as wildlife is often hibernating underground or have not yet built nests, Craine said.

Additionally, moving to a more flexible burning schedule helps manage the large volume of smoke that carry to Manhattan and Wichita, Kansas; Kansas City, Missouri; Lincoln, Nebraska, and other cities downwind. Burning over a wider time window would reduce the intensity of the smoke that carries to cities downwind and would be produced at times that are less likely to produce ground-level ozone.

"By burning earlier in the spring than what has been traditionally recommended, many of the smoke management issues in downwind cities can be alleviated," Towne said.

Researchers say that while there is always more research that needs to be conducted, there is no evidence that burning grasslands in the Flint Hills during fall and winter would have a negative effect on the prairies compared to late-spring burning.

"It looks like one of those rare situations where everybody wins," Craine said. "Our ranchers win. Our prairies win. And our neighbors downwind of the Flint Hills also win."

Jennifer Torline Tidball | newswise

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Crop achilles' heel costs farmers 10 percent of potential yield
24.01.2017 | Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

nachricht How much drought can a forest take?
20.01.2017 | University of California - Davis

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Scientists spin artificial silk from whey protein

X-ray study throws light on key process for production

A Swedish-German team of researchers has cleared up a key process for the artificial production of silk. With the help of the intense X-rays from DESY's...

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Breaking the optical bandwidth record of stable pulsed lasers

24.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Choreographing the microRNA-target dance

24.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Spanish scientists create a 3-D bioprinter to print human skin

24.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>