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What Season of the Year is Best to Burn Tallgrass Prairie?

It is well known and accepted that the tallgrass prairie is a fire-derived and fire-maintained ecosystem. In the largest tract of native tallgrass prairie remaining in North America, the Flint Hills of KS and OK, the dominant fire season used by ranchers and land managers is Spring. However, despite the numerous benefits Spring fires have on rangeland sustainability and ecosystem function, the numerous fires in the Flint Hills occurring in Spring has impacted the air quality of nearby cities and other cities in the region. The release of concentrated smoke can facilitate tropospheric ozone production due to higher temperatures that are common in Spring.

In this Webinar, results from an on-going long-term burning experiment at different seasons of the year at the Konza Prairie Biological Station (KPBS) will be presented. The data from the Long Term Ecological Research Program (LTER) at KPBS test whether the timing of burning impact above ground productivity and plant community composition. Results from 22 years of annual burning in different seasons (fall, winter and spring) from replicated ungrazed watersheds on KPBS will be presented. In addition, data from replicated ungrazed watersheds burned biennially in the summer over the same time period will be summarized. The results from this long-term study will show that burning in ungrazed watersheds of the Kansas Flint Hills can be conducted with little adverse effect on tallgrass prairie species.

John M. Briggs is Professor of Biology and Konza Prairie Biological Station (KPBS) Director at Kansas State University (KSU). He received his B.S. and M.S. in Biology from Pittsburg State University (Pittsburg, KS.) and his Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, AR. He was the Information Manager for the KPBS Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program at KSU from 1984 to 1998 and co-director of the KPBS LTER from 1990-1998. He served as Program Director of Ecology in the Division of Environmental Biology at the National Science Foundation from 1998-1999. In 1999 he relocated to Arizona State University (ASU), Department of Plant Biology. During his time at ASU, he served as Department Chair of Plant Biology, co-director of the LTER Central Arizona Program and was founding director of ASU GIS Certificate Program. He moved back to KSU to become the first full time director of KPBS in 2008. He has chaired or co-chaired eleven graduate student committees and has served on 46 graduate student committees. He has authored or co-authored over 70 peer-reviewed publications, 15 book chapters and one book. As either Principal or Co-Investigator, his research grants have exceeded $22,000,000.00.

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