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Both the science and use of fire in the Upper Midwest is lagging behind other parts of the US, even though the need for fire science and management is pronounced in the region. This is especially true in relation to controlling woody plant encroachment, which is one of the greatest contemporary threats to fire-dependent ecosystems. Reducing woody plant prevalence is often a primary objective of prescribed burns, yet little attention has been given to understanding the efficacy of burning to reduce their abundance. This presentation will place prescribed burning traditions (e.g., seasonality and frequency) in a historical context as well as synthesize several controlled field experiments that examined effects of timing (seasonality) and intensity (temperature and duration) of fires on top-kill and resprouting of invasive woody plants. Despite long-standing recommendations that grasslands be burned in the early spring dormant season to reduce negative effects on nesting birds and other wildlife species, the data supporting this practice is not well supported by research. We need to rethink prescribed burning practices in this region.
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