Everglades Fire Staff Collaborates with Florida International University in Research on Exotic Plant Response to Fire

A firefighter uses a drip torch to ignite plants in a large wooden box.
Everglades National Park Firefighter Sam Markson lights sawgrass in Florida International University “burn box” research study.

In September 2014, Everglades National Park fire and exotic plant management personnel worked with Florida International University biologist Dr. Jennifer Richards and her staff to conduct an experiment on Lygodium microphyllum, an exotic, invasive plant. Lygodium can cause landscape-level ecological changes in the park and threatens to outcompete native plants. To better manage Lygodium in the park, fire staff provided support while burning “test” plants during a recent research study.

Florida International University staff set up a “burn box” of potted, nonreproductive stage Lygodium plants. The plants were outfitted with thermocouples in the soil to measure the heat at the roots of the plants. Metal tags were painted with heat-sensitive paints and buried about 1-2 centimeters below the soil to measure heat intensity from the surface level. An infrared camera recorded heat intensity and temperature as the plants burned during the study. Additional cameras were set up to record fire behavior during the study. Everglades fire staff lit the vegetation and monitored weather conditions as dried sawgrass litter and Lygodium vines burned. A fan supplied wind, aiding in the spread of fire in the burn box.

Close-up of hands holding metal tags with heat-sensitive paint.
Metal tag painted with heat-sensitive paint to measure heat intensity during “burn box” research project.

After the fire spread throughout the research box, the plants were removed and returned to a laboratory at Florida International University, where they will be compared with control plants that were not burned during the experiment. Researchers hope to find out more about Lygodium growth and reproductive response after fire.

 Wooden burn box with fire burning plants and fan adding wind.
Florida International University “burn box” research experiment to identify plant response to fire in exotic Lygodium microphyllum.

Read information on Everglades Fire Management.

Contact: Rick Anderson, Fire Management Officer / Jonathan Taylor, Exotics Control Manager
Email: Rick_Anderson@nps.gov / jonathan_e_taylor@nps.gov
Phone: (305) 242-7853 / (305) 242-7876