« 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