Fire Scarring

Fire resulting from a prescribed burn
Courtesy of J. Demeyere.

Driving through this stand of pines, you may have noticed some fire scarring around the bases of some of the trees. This is the aftermath of a prescribed burn. Prior to European settlement, large scale fires ( about 20,000 acres ) would sweep through the area every 25 to 35 years. Fires to that magnitude could not be maintained on the refuge, but under the Refuge's Fire Management Plan, a goal of 6,000 total acres annually is attempted to be met. Burns are planned and conducted by experts and only when multiple conditions are met (humidity, wind direction, etc.). Prescribed burns at Seney are used to set back succession in the wetlands, conserve early successional forests, or to conserve open areas and fields. Some species of plants and wildlife have adapted to rely on fires to maintain or create their habitat. During burns, invasive species are reduced and native plants are given an edge. New habitat is created as thick brush is burned away; the yellow rail relies on sedge marshes, a habitat maintained by fire. Some trees, like the jack pine depend heavily on fires for their reproduction; its seeds only disperse after being exposed to the high temperatures of a fire. Trees that ultimately perish produce snags, dead standing trees, which are used as a food source and home for many species including woodpeckers, insects and many other animals. Not all trees die from the burn and some, like the red pine, are actually resistant to heat. Keep an eye out for signs of previous burns as you explore Seney.