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UF/IFAS Ordway-Swisher Biological Station

UF/IFAS Ordway-Swisher Biological Station

Fire at OSBS

Aerial imagery of prescribed fire

Role of Fire

Fire is naturally occurring through summer lightning storms in Southern ecosystems like those that occur on the station. These ecosystems are pyrogenic, or reliant on fire to succeed. The exclusion and suppression of fire has changed these ecosystems throughout the Southeast, altering the robustness of the longleaf pine and, as a result, many of the species that rely on these ecosystems. Fire can act as a medication for these systems. In order to reintroduce fire after exclusion, land managers write a prescription, with detail on the structure of the habitat and the weather conditions needed to use fire safely and effectively. Fire is used as a medication to keep the longleaf pine system healthy, allowing for native plants and animals to thrive. This process is known as prescribed burning.


Fire At OSBS

Station staff use prescribed burning in different seasons and on various weather conditions to mimic naturally occurring fires and ensure ecosystem health. Utilizing research on different seasonality and frequency of burning allows for diversity in fire dependent ground cover species such as wire grass, lopsided Indian grass, summer farewell, liatris species, and more. This increases the resilience and health of the system.


Station staff on the fireline

Researcher monitoring study while plot burns

Research & Fire

Fire continues to be extensively studied throughout the Southeast in order to figure out the extent of ecosystem alterations from fire suppression and best practices for reintroducing and maintaining fire intervals. The station contributes to these efforts by allowing research projects to take place on the property as staff works to restore and maintain the habitat. Taking feasible, appropriate, and realistic approaches has allowed us to make progress in frequent challenges faced in managing fire dependent ecosystems. This includes providing training opportunities for staff and cooperators to safely and effectively use this tool on the landscape. It is our responsibility to continue to practice responsible management and remain accountable to allow for continued use of natural areas for generations to come.