Starved for fire, Wisconsin’s pine barrens disappear

When humans rush to extinguish every wildfire, wildfires are not the only thing extinguished. From Science Daily: Starved for fire, Wisconsin’s pine barrens disappear.

A century spent treating wildfires as emergencies to be stamped out may have cost Central Wisconsin a natural setting that was common and thriving before the state was settled.

Pine barrens once stretched like a scarf around the state’s neck, from the northeast down across Central Wisconsin and up again northwest to Lake Superior. As recently as the 1950s, University of Wisconsin-Madison surveys conducted by botany Professor John Curtis and graduate student James Habeck described the sandy, open spaces dotted with pin oak and jack pine and dashed with the lavender of lupine and the purple of blazing star.

“We know that the pine barrens used to be common in Wisconsin before European settlement, but now only about 1 percent of the original area remains,” says Daijiang Li, a current UW-Madison botany graduate student. With botany Professor Donald Waller, Li authored a study in the journal Ecology outlining the factors driving a deep shift in the increasingly rare plant communities that once inhabited the Central Wisconsin pine barrens. [continue]

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