Oak Savanna Prescribed Burn
December 20, 2019
Today is an historic day for the Oak Savanna, located in Sullivan Woods, when fire is reintroduced into the ecosystem with a prescribed burn. It has been at least a century, possibly hundreds of years, since fire has moved through the Savanna. The only way to really tell will require checking tree rings from an older Oak tree to see where scars formed from an earlier fire.
Prior to settlement, prairie and savanna fires were lit by lightening or by Native Americans to clear land for hunting. In the early years, a farm occupied the area and the Savanna appeared to be used for the grazing of animals. It is possible that the farmer burned the site annually in order to blacken the soil in the spring to encourage quicker growth of the prairie plants so the animals could graze.
Fire dependent ecosystems developed ways to survive frequent fires. Prairie plants developed deep root systems and Oak trees developed thick bark to resist damage. When fire moves through a fire dependent ecosystem, the plants that don’t belong there get swept from the area and the resistant plants thrive.
Following this burn, the invasive plants that are still residing within the Savanna will be damaged or killed. The ancient seed bed that is sitting dormant in the soil will hopefully germinate in the spring, and the surviving prairie plants already in the Savanna will explode in growth this spring and summer.