Help Further Ongoing Knowledge Exchange About Burn Timing

Do growing burns fit your desired outcomes and management objectives?

A planted prairie is burned September 15, 2016, in McHenry County, Illinois.

Whether you support, oppose, or are uncertain about using growing season burns, what questions would you like research to address to support making decisions about burn timing? 

This fall, TPOS began outreach to practitioners and researchers to improve understanding of current research and practice for growing season burns. We are working with the responses to assess information needs, improve awareness of current research, and ultimately to plan future activities that address practitioners' questions on this topic. A summary of current responses is in progress.

If you would like add your experiences to this knowledge exchange effort, please use the link below to respond to the questionnaire. This questionnaire takes approximately 10 minutes to complete.

Add your information via our questionnaire 



Research briefs focused on fire ecology of oak savannas

Responses to the 2016 evaluation survey showed that research briefs for resource managers are highly-valued by land managers and other practitioners. Here are links to a handful of briefs from oak savanna research sites in Iowa and Illinois that may have slipped by many of our regular newsletter readers.


We also have several tools to help you find the research briefs most relevant for you. Our Research Briefs page includes a map, tags, and a comprehensive table. 


“Influence of Fire History on High Quality Oak Savannas”

This study examined how the structure of high quality oak savanna sites may have been influenced by a history of fire, grazing, and single tree selection harvesting.

Implications for managers:

  • Including punctuated longer fire free intervals in management plans can allow for recruitment in frequently burned sites  

  • Combining prescribed fire with other disturbances (grazing, single tree harvest) can be used as part of land management plans in oak savannas to achieve uneven age structure on restoration sites

  • Restoration plans should incorporate strategies for removing woody and herbaceous invasive species prior to implementing fire free intervals that allow for oak regeneration

“Differences Between Upland and Lowland Savannas May Indicate Need For Different Restoration Strategies”

The authors of this study wondered if upland savannas are a good reference surrogate for lowland savannas or if there are key differences in how these sites respond to restoration techniques.

Implications for managers:

  • Using upland savanna restoration strategies in lowland savanna sites may lead to loss of unique lowland characteristics

  • Multiple historical sources (e.g., maps, surveyor descriptions, tree density) provide a more comprehensive view of past conditions

“Do Open-Grown Oaks Indicate Former Savannas?”

One method for identifying former oak savannas is identifying open grown oaks. However, some of these large, open-grown trees have established post-settlement.

The most notable result of this study may be that the open-grown oaks on this site were established post-settlement. The open-grown characteristics likely developed as the result of a savanna-like landscape being maintained through grazing and possibly periodic fire.


Research briefs focused on fire effects in prairies

Responses to the 2016 evaluation survey showed that research briefs for resource managers are highly-valued by land managers and other practitioners. Here are links to a handful of briefs from prairie research sites in Iowa, Michigan, and South Dakota that may have slipped by many of our regular newsletter readers.


We also have several tools to help you find the research briefs most relevant for you. Our Research Briefs page includes a map, tags, and a comprehensive table. 

“Fifty Years of Prairie Fire - A Case Study from Iowa”

Small, isolated prairie remnants often show a decline in native species over time, and their sustainability is questioned. Given the rarity of tallgrass prairie in the upper Midwest, it is important to monitor changes over time to determine the long term impacts of land management.

This case study sought to document changes in the vegetation at Kalsow Prairie, one of the largest virgin prairies remaining in Iowa. Management at Kalsow, prior to 1950, was predominantly annual summer mowing, after 1950 management was gradually shifted to spring burning.

Implications for managers:

  • Managing the same way over time (e.g., burning in the spring every 2 years) may not maximize biodiversity of the plant community due to the strong selection pressure.

  • Larger isolated prairie sites may be less prone to establishment of non-native species when managed with fire

  • Prescribed fire may stabilize prairie communities, and keep non-native species from establishing

“Evaluating 16 Years of Restoration in Prairie”

After 16 years of research comparing prescribed fire treatments (annual fires and fires every three years), the authors did not observe changes in dominance or richness related to differences in fire frequency.

“Measuring Prescribed Fire Temperatures”

Fire characteristics, including fire temperatures and duration of lethal heating, are dependent upon fuel loads, fuel moisture, and environmental conditions (e.g. ambient temperature). Measurement of fire characteristics is important because these characteristics are related to plant tissue damage and other measures of fire severity.

Maximum temperature and heating duration differed by year, site, and treatment in complex ways. These differences were mainly attributed to the effects that annual variation, site variation, and time since previous fire can have on fuel loading.

“Effects of Prairie Restoration on Butterfly Communities”

This study looked at the butterfly communities found in restored prairie sites in the Loess Hills in Iowa. Restoration sites were managed with prescribed fire, grazing, and a combination of fire and grazing.

Implications for managers:

  • There is not a single best management practice for butterfly communities

  • Knowledge of species present on site – and potential positive and negative responses – can help restoration planning

  • Using a variety of management practices may be best way to increase species richness and abundance

WINTER READING: Ecological Effects of Fire in Savannas and Prairies

This synthesis is a valuable resource for anyone seeking information about ecological effects of fire in the tallgrass prairie and oak savanna region. Information and results from over 250 peer-reviewed publications are summarized here, including sections on soil nutrients, hydrology and ecosystem processes, vegetation, and animals.

The Tallgrass Prairie and Oak Savanna Fire Science Consortium completed the literature review with Dr. Gary Roloff of Michigan State University. 

View or download "Ecological Effects of Fire in Savannas and Prairies" as a PDF.

View or download a PDF of the one page summary of the syntheses to share.





2017 Wisconsin Winter Fire Workshop

News: Registration is open! Thanks to the Wisconsin Prescribed Fire Council for handling registration.

Please register and pay online via the Wisconsin Prescribed Fire Councial at 



When: January 31, 2017 - 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM; registration begins at 9:00 AM.

Where: The 2017 Wisconsin Winter Workshop is centrally-located. We will meet at the UW-Stevens Point Dreyfus University Center.


The goal of the Winter Fire Workshop is to support interaction among all parts of the prescribed fire and wildfire community across the State of Wisconsin and highlight factors that are common across regions and ownerships. Speakers addressing land management at the workshop span the breadth of fire from wildfire response and prescribed fire on public lands to land management contractors burning for private landowners. We’ll hear from researchers answering management questions in northern and southern ecosystems, as well as from student leaders at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Fire Crew and Fox Valley Technical College.

Keynote speaker John Weir will share his extensive work in prescribed fire in the Great Plains, where he has assisted with the formation of over 30 prescribed burn associations among many other accomplishments. He is a research associate at  Oklahoma State University and serves on the board of the National Coalition of Prescribed Fire Councils.


After the workshop, please join us for the mixer from 4-5 pm. We end the day with an opportunity to share your fire experience with college students from across the state, connect with colleagues, and discuss future events with leaders of the Wisconsin Prescribed Fire Council, Joint Fire Science Program fire science exchanges, and UW-Stevens Point, UW-Platteville, and Fox Valley Technical College.



Thanks to the Wisconsin Prescribed Fire Council for handling registration for this event.

Registration includes conference materials, morning refreshments, an afternoon break, and a mixer to wrap the day. Lunch is not included but many affordable options are available in the Dreyfus University Center.

Regular registration rate: $40

Student registration rate: $10

Register and pay online at Online registration closes January 23 at 5:00 PM Central.

Refund and cancellation policy: Contact Michele Jasik at the Wisconsin Prescribed Fire Council to cancel or transfer registration. Cancellations made before January 23 at 5:00 PM Central are fully refundable. After January 23, registration can be transferred to another individual but no refunds can be made.

In the event that severe winter weather limits travel, registrations will not be refunded.

Planning Team

Dr. Ron Masters, Professor of Wildland Fire Science, UW-Stevens Point

Dr. Yari Johnson, Assistant Professor and the Director of Reclamation, Environment and Conservation in the School of Agriculture at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville

Clayton M. Frazer,  Senior Ecologist, Eco-Resource Consulting, Inc./Pheasants Forever

Nathan Fayram, Wisconsin Prescribed Fire Council / Wisconsin DNR Field Ecologist

Jack McGowan-Stinski, Program Manager, Lake States Fire Science Consortium

Craig Maier, Coordinator, Tallgrass Prairie and Oak Savanna Fire Science Consortium

Michele Jasik, Wisconsin Prescribed Fire Council

For any questions please email TPOS Coordinator Craig Maier or call 608-844-1075.



Wisconsin Fire Needs Assessment Published

What are the priority areas for prescribed fire in Wisconsin? The Tallgrass Prairie and Oak Savanna Fire Science Consortium partnered with the SILVIS Lab at UW-Madison and the Lake States fire Science Consortium to conduct a Fire Needs Assessment (FNA) for Wisconsin. This project used LANDFIRE vegetation data ( to identify where fire-dependent vegetation is located and the fire return interval of community types.

The assessment found that the highest priorities for management with prescribed fire occurred in the Central Sand Plains and Sand Hills, Northwest and Northeast Sands, and along the lower Wisconsin River. These areas reflect where high concentrations of rare ecosystems with frequent fire return intervals occur and there may be less challenges associated with applying prescribed fire in the Wildland Urban Interface.

To learn more:
1) View or download a two page PDF of the final report.
2) Email  corresponding author Tracy Hmielowski.
3) Access the article in Ecological Applications via:

Literature cited:  Hmielowski, T. L., Carter, S. K., Spaul, H., Helmers, D., Radeloff, V. C., & Zedler, P. (2016). Prioritizing land management efforts at a landscape scale: a case study using prescribed fire in Wisconsin. Ecological Applications, 26(4), 1018-1029. 


Open call for observations of fire effects on invasive species

To accelerate the sharing of knowledge and information about fire effects on invasive species in the Midwest - bad as well as good - we've partnered with the Midwest Invasive Plant Network (MIPN) to add practitioners' observations to the online Invasive Plant Control Database.

Please consider taking some time over the dormant season to share your observations.

We've added a short form to our website that asks for a few sentences about the habitat type, treatment, and effectiveness. (

After you fill out and submit the form, we will send you a confirmation email and ask to schedule a time for a follow up phone call. 

During the follow up phone call, we will collect additional information about the treatments (burning and other integrated management) and effectiveness. Notes from the discussion will be turned into a brief description and sent back to the land manager for review.


Following approval, the observations will be uploaded to the database. New additions to the database will be advertised through the consortium, MIPN, and relevant state or local invasive plant list serves and newsletters.


Download the flyer


Ecological Site Description Developed for Wet Prairies In Iowa, Minnesota

The NRCS has completed an Ecological Site Description for Loamy Wet Prairies in the Central Iowa and Minnesota Till Prairies Major Land Resource Area (MLRA), covering parts of northern Iowa and southern Minnesota.

Ecological Site Descriptions (ESDs) Ecological Site Descriptions (ESDs) are reports that provide detailed information about a particular kind of land based on various soil and ecological factors - a distinctive Ecological Site. ESDs provide land managers the information needed for evaluating land units based on the potential to respond to different management activities or disturbance processes. The publications synthesize information and data gathered from literature reviews and intensive field investigation at reference sites around the region


The lead authors are Kyle Steele, Ecological Site Specialist, United States Department of Agriculture - Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS), Albert Lea, MN; and Clayton Johnson, Soil Survey Office Leader, USDA-NRCS, Albert Lea, MN.

To view or download the ESD, click on the link below:

Loamy Wet Prairies ESD (size: 2 MB) 


Webinar - Past Fire and Present-day Mesophication: Implications for Oak Ecosystem Restoration

Thanks to our presenter Dr. Gregory Nowacki for a great discussion of oak ecology and mesophication. 

This webinar is now archived, and can be viewed via our co-sponsor, the Lake States Fire Science Consortium.

To visit their website and view the archived webinar through the Adobe Connect platform, please click on the following link or copy and paste into your browser:

Past fire and present-day mesophication: Implications for oak ecosystem restoration

Gregory Nowacki, USFS Regional Ecologist

Oak is a “keystone species” within the Eastern Deciduous Forest and its long-term success, in terms of abundance and wide distribution, has been explicitly linked to disturbance, specifically fire.  Oak is an opportunistic species that readily takes advantage of forest disturbance by quickly colonizing and exploiting openings.  The disturbance regime that historically supported oak (facilitated greatly by Native American burning) changed upon European arrival.  Although early forest exploitation initially buoyed oak dominance through cutting and burning, near-universal fire suppression that followed has had negative effects.  Under current high densities, oak performs poorly and is being replaced by shade-tolerant, fire-sensitive species such as sugar and red maple, basswood, and beech.  As shade-tolerant competitors become entrenched, opportunities for oak regeneration rapidly degrade with increasing shade and cool and moist understory/fuel bed conditions that greatly retard fire—a positive feedback mechanism coined “mesophication.” A combination of thinning and burning is recommended to restore imperiled oak ecosystems.


Resources from Neighboring Regions

UPDATED 10/5/2015


Great Plains Fire Science Exchange

Oct. 6 - What's going on in glade soil: effects of edge and fire on mycorrhizae

North Atlantic Fire Science Exchange

Oct. 14 - Fire and the Northern Long-Eared Bat


Training - Lake States Fire Science Consortium

January 8-10 and 15-17, 2016 @ Grand Valley State University, MI - S-290/S-133 course 

Registration available October-November 2015.