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The Kieth White Prairie burns.

A section of the Kieth White Prairie is burned to remove invading anual grasses and shrubs and enhance the growth of prairie vegetaion.

The Cofrin Arboretum surrounding campus includes an area that can be referred to as “restored” or “created” prairie. The area is abandoned agricultural land that was replanted in the mid-1970s. Since the late 1970s the lands of the Keith White Prairie on the north end of campus have been subject to annual fire management to reduce woody species in favor of grasses and discourage invasion of exotic species. The site(s) chosen for burning differ each year depending on soil moisture and temperature and on vegetation moisture level. The entire prairie is never burned in any given year, but small sections are burned on 2 to 5 year cycle. Date of burning also varies yearly from mid-April to mid-May depending on weather conditions. Ideal conditions are moderately dry with little wind. The burn must take place before the perrenial prairie grasses and forbes have begun to grow, but after the annual weedy grasses have sprouted to be effective.

Strips of land or firebreaks are cleared of vegetation to prevent the fire from spreading too rapidly. The fire is simply started with matches and fire-fighters from the City of Green Bay helped to move the fire along the prairie. Students with backpack watersprayers and rakes prevented the fire moving into adjoining fields and forest.

This year Amanda Malueg, an undergraduate biology student, has received a grant to conduct research in the Keith White Prairie. The purpose of her study will be to assess the effects of fire management on small mammals in the prairie, including information on changes in species numbers and composition. Changes in plant biomass and ground litter will also be monitored as they affect the survival of the animals studied.

 

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Last updated on April 15, 2014