The skillful application of fire under select weather conditions in specified locations to accomplish explicit management goals.
Why is fire necessary?
Fire is a natural process, necessary for the health and survival of plants, animals, and ecosystems. Natural areas of North Carolina historically burned once every 2-7 years. Species in these ecosystems have become fire adapted, meaning they are resistant to fire damage. Some even became fire dependent, meaning they require fire in order to regenerate. Cones of the Table Mountain Pine tree releases its seed after exposure to a high temperature only reached by fire. Other wildflower seeds rely on fire for germination.
Prescribed burns benefit more than just fire adapted species:
Preserves on Fire
80% of the NCPCP Preserves need prescribed burns as part of their management.
NC fire adapted plants
Hebron Road Preserve: Efforts to restore the savanna-like habitats of this Piedmont preserve have involved several occasions of controlled burns. Numerous notable NC species have benefited from these practices: Smooth Coneflower, Narrow-leaf Aster (Symphyotrichum laeve var. concinnum), and Erect Bindweed (Calystegia spithamea) are just a few.
Mineral Springs Barrens: After spring burns of 2012 two species, previously unsighted for many years, were recorded. The Thick-pod White Wild Indigo (Baptisia alba) and Georgia Aster (Symphyotrichum georgianum).
Boiling Springs Lake: The Boiling Springs Lake preserve saw its first prescribed burn in 2011. With help from 5 tractor plow unites, a spotter plane, and additional staff from DFR and TNC the complex burn was accomplished. The preserve is known for providing habitat to numerous Venus Flytraps.
Cedar Mountain Bog: In 2019, a successful burn at the Cedar Mountain Bog preserve maintains habitat for species such as Bog Laurel (Kalmia polifolia) and Bog Rose (Arethus bulbosa).
Multiple steps are taken to insure the success and safety of a prescribed burns. Prescribed burns are implemented only by those with proper training, often members of the PCP Staff or additional personnel from the US Forest Service.
References and Additional Resources
NC Forest Service - prescribed fire
PCP's Year In Review reports
Southern Blue Ridge Fire Learning Network
Southern Fire Exchange
"Using Fire to Improve Wildlife Habitat", NCSU Extension
Gray, Janet & Brownie, Cavell. (2003). Extinction, colonization, and persistence of rare vascular flora in the longleaf pine-wiregrass ecosystem: Responses to fire frequency and population size. Natural Areas Journal. 23. 210-219.