How does fire impact wildlife?

Prescribed Fire April 30, 2010 Print Friendly and PDF
Fire can be both positive and negative for wildlife. Wildlife evolved in plant communities that had fire. Man has changed the fire regime which has had negative impacts on many species. Some species require frequent fires while others require less frequent fires. Thus, the impacts on species of plants and animals are highly variable and to determine the impacts on a particular place you need a good understanding of individual species responses. There are some general notes to consider regarding wildlife: 1) Fire temporarily increases the palatability of many plants which increases forage for herbivores. 2) Fire temporarily increases the amount of annual forbs which many birds require. 3) Fire temporarily reduces the amount of cover for nesting and escape. How long these conditions last depends on the productivity of the site. It could be as little as 3 years or as many as 200 years. Fire is critical for wildlife biodiversity. The key is selecting the appropriate scale (time interval between fires and size of fire) to match the wildlife species of interest.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.