The goal for this paper is to explore how a network of coordinated prescribed fire experiments could be developed and applied to tallgrass prairie management. In a 2011 survey conducted by the Tallgrass Prairie and Oak Savanna Fire Science Consortium in their region, 61% of 207 land managers indicated that their greatest need with respect to fire regimes was information on the outcome of variations in fire frequency and season, with information on these variables ranging from limited to completely lacking. Need for this kind of information was echoed during a breakout discussion session at the 2016 North American Prairie Conference where researchers and land managers shared their opinions on how the potential costs and benefits of developing a research network with experimental treatments could be relevant to management needs. The discussion was encouraging, although researchers noted funding as an important barrier. An example of the informative nature of long-term fire studies is ongoing at the University of Nebraska at Omaha where an experiment established in 1978 has shown strong differences among vegetation and soils in plots burned in different seasons and with different frequencies. A network of sites replicating this type of experiment across the region would inform land management decisions at a broad array of sites that are represented by a variety of soils, weather, climate, and plant species, including invasive plants. All these variables have been hypothesized to be important predictors of fire effects at some location, but the relative importance of different variables across the region has not been quantified through monitoring or research. In this paper, we outline potential steps for a sustained effort to investigate the benefits and risks of engaging in and funding a regional fire research network.
Bragg, Tom; Meyer, Craig; and Johnson, Yari, "Matching Long-Term Fire Effects Research to Pressing Questions Facing Tallgrass Prairie Managers across the Upper Midwest" (2016). 2016 North American Prairie Conference. 15.