Our current management plan involves having the entire prairie sectioned into 5 units and on a burn rotation that allows each unit to be burned twice every 5 years, once in winter/spring and once in late summer/fall.
Controlled burns can occur on any day August 1 through October 15 and January 1 through March 15 when weather is appropriate. If you intend to be on Tucker Prairie during those times, be sure to check before going into the field to see if and where a burn may occur. DO NOT approach areas being burned, you may not properly predict where the fire will go and could become trapped.
Fire Ecology Burn Plots
Long-term research, active for nearly 60-years, examines the effects of fire frequency on prairie plant composition with annual, biannual, 5-year, and control plots. The experimental burn plots are located southwest of the research station. Each plot is one-half acre in size.
The East Control Plot has never been burned on purpose. It is filled with forbs and woody plants, like wild plum and blackberry. It contrasts sharply with the nearly solid grass stand on the Annual Burn Plot. The 2-Year Burn Plot has a more balanced ratio of grasses to forbs than the annual burn and contains the greatest diversity of plant species of all the study plots. Grasses are scarce in the 5-Year Burn Plot, which is dominated by goldenrods and other forbs and some woody species. The West Control Plot has not been burned intentionally. It is dominated by woody plants and trees. This control plot differs from the eastern control plot by lying closer to a gully and by damp soil conditions that aid the growth of trees.
These study plots show that burning the prairie about every three years provides a vigorous grass cover and high diversity of forbs. Such a burning schedule results in vegetation that closely resembles that described in early accounts of the area’s flora. Our current management plan involves having the entire prairie sectioned into 5 units and on a burn rotation that allows each unit to be burned twice every 5 years, once in winter/spring and once in late summer/fall.
A brief summary of the effects of early spring burning for about 30 years at Tucker Prairie is provided in Kucera, C. (1990) Fire Studies at Tucker Prairie. Iowa Prairie Blazing Star, 2(1).
RECORD OF FIRE ECOLOGY PLOTS – TUCKER PRAIRIE 1958-2021
- Annual Plot – 63 burns
- 2-Year Plot – 29 burns
- 5-Year Plot – 11 burns
- East Control – burned unintentionally 1982, 1991, 1993
- West Control – burned unintentionally 1982, 1991 - REMOVED FROM STUDY IN 2020