A revised Fire Management Plan (Plan) for Archbold
Biological Station was developed in 1996 and implemented in 1997. This Plan provides a
foundation for all fire-related activities at the Station. The Plan deals with prescribed
burning, wildfire guidelines, fire policies, and post-fire monitoring. It is important to
examine how goals of the Plan are being met.
Goal 1. Enhance Biological Diversity. Biological
diversity refers to both species diversity and landscape diversity.
Meeting the goals. Species diversity: Archbold biologists monitor populations of
many key species in the burn units. Landscape diversity: Burns are juxtaposed to provide a
mosaic of different fire-return intervals (see map, this page). Diversity is enhanced by
various lighting techniques, and by burning during different seasons and weather
conditions. During 199798, 9 fires were in spring and 9 in summer.
Goal 2. Enhance Threatened and Endangered Species. The
Station is an important site for many Lake Wales Ridge threatened and endangered scrub
species, including 13 federally-listed
plants. Each burn prescription is evaluated with respect to specific listed species.
Monitoring listed species populations is a key element of fire management. Results from
long-term monitoring are used to refine the Plan.
Meeting the goals. On Tract 18E (long-unburned), Florida scrub-jays were declining
in the 1980s, but after a prescribed burn in March 1990, the population reached a density
typical of optimal habitat by 1996 (see Fig. 1, below). Eryngium cuneifolium,
an endangered scrub herb, shows a similar positive response to fire (see
Fig. 2, below).
Goal 3. Mimic Natural Processes. This goal includes the
natural range of variation in fire-return interval, fire intensity, fire behavior, fire
effects, and other characteristics of the fire regime. Most presettlement fires probably
burned intensely, often during droughts. We use many lighting techniques during prescribed
burns, but seek to burn the majority of many burn units with head fires to mimic
pre-European settlement fire intensities. Safety constraints and other site-specific
factors limit burning during extreme conditions and also limit the use of head fires in
some burn units. We also plan for lightning ignitions so that some lightning fires can be
allowed to burn in a controlled manner and, thereby, affect part of the landscape
similarly to presettlement fires.
Meeting the goals. During 199798, most fires were prescribed for the
lightning season, and head fires were the preferred lighting techniques (70% of 18 fires).
Four prescribed burns, and 2 lightning fires, occurred under drought conditions (drought
index over 500) but these six fires were not under "extreme conditions." One
wildfire during the period was controlled by indirect attack, allowing some areas to be
Goal 4. Provide a Diversity of Research Opportunities.
Research opportunities are provided by sites with various fire histories for comparative
research; as well as by opportunities for studies before, during, and after single or
multiple fires. By planning burns that may occur within 5-year rolling windows, we can
provide a broad spectrum of relatively predictable research opportunities for most
scientists conducting research at the Station, and integrate research and fire management
for mutual benefit.
Meeting the goals. Many research projects are designed specifically around fire
history. Burn 97-10 on Red Bill was a complete burn for Florida Division of Forestry
research on population recovery and seed banks. Most burns are conducted with several
research needs in mind. Some possible burns are excluded for specific research needs. For
example, during 199798 most of the northwestern portion of the Station was
restricted from prescribed burns to allow scientists to observe Florida scrub-jay
movements in that area after some adjacent off-Station habitat was cleared.
Goal 5. Provide Educational Opportunities. Educational
opportunities are maximized by maintaining biological diversity, mimicking natural
processes, and providing diverse research opportunities, and by providing these goals in
areas accessible to classes and individuals. Fire management can serve educational goals
in teaching about fire ecology and management.
Meeting the goals. During 199798, 8 burns (61 acres) were conducted along the
Nature Trail and in several units near the paved Loop Road on Red Hill. School groups and
individuals can access these areas to observe ecological changes following a fire.
Goal 6. Interact with Other Fire Management Agencies.
We interact with other fire managers and their agencies in conducting prescribed burns,
sharing ideas and experience, and exchanging knowledge on fire management.
Meeting the goals. Station fire crews often work side by side with other local fire
management agencies, especially on wildfires. During 199798, 5 wildfires (135 acres)
occurred on lands managed by the Station. The Florida Division of Forestry and County
Volunteer Fire Departments assisted in controlling these fires. Station Staff exchange
ideas on fire management agencies through active participation on the Lake Wales Ridge Ecosystem Working Group and the
Central Florida Prescribed Fire Council.
Goal 7. Reduce Fire Hazards by Managing Fuels and Fire.
The Plan provides attention to units near buildings (both ours and our neighbor's), units
having research equipment, and areas adjacent to public roads. In some cases, short
fire-return intervals may make control of an accidental fire easier.
Meeting the goals. During 199798, three fires (25 acres) were conducted
successfully with the goal of reducing fuels around buildings at the Station's Main
Goal 8. Conduct Safe Burns. Conducing safe burns
requires proper training, effective equipment and supplies, informed decision-making, and
careful planning. Burn crew safety and fire control within the burn unit are key concerns
in prescribed burns. Another element of safety is smoke management. We seek coordination
with other fire management agencies to help us develop management techniques for
conducting safe burns. We will burn with the utmost consideration for the safety and
comfort of our neighbors.
Meeting the goals. In October 1998 Archbold received a National Science Foundation award for new fire
equipment to enhance research in fire ecology, including two new vehicles and a new
communications system. Reliable equipment and improved communications will greatly
increase safety on all fires. The Station also continually updates personal protective
equipment used on fires. Each year individuals without fire experience receive entry level
training before working on a prescribed fire.