For a prairie plant, a fiery love life isn’t just fun—it’s essential.
In a new study, researchers found that prescribed, expert-controlled fires are critically important to successful reproduction in prairie plants. Fires cause prairie plants to flower at the same time, which increases mating opportunities and seed production.
During the study, which ran from 1996 to 2016, researchers observed the sex lives of 778 individual plants on Staffanson Prairie in Minnesota. Throughout the 21-year study, conservation scientists conducted prescribed burns in nine different years.
“In most years, plants are isolated from other plants because few plants flower,” said Stuart Wagenius, a Northwestern University conservation scientist, who led the study. “They don’t get well pollinated, and they produce few seeds. In the summer right after a fire, however, many plants flower. They are not isolated. They get pollinated and produce many seeds. Synchronised flowering after a fire keeps populations healthy and averts local extinctions.” MORE
Header image: A trained firefighter manages a prescribed fire. Credit: The Nature Conservancy.