Different Ecosystems:

Tallgrass Prairie: Midwest | Chaparral: California & Southwest | Ponderosa Pine: West | Douglas Fir: West | Loblolly & Shortleaf Pine: South | Jack Pine: Great Lakes States

Tall Prarie Grass Regrowth

Tallgrass Prairie: Midwestern United States

Historically, tallgrass prairies covered parts of Nebraska, Illinois, Iowa and Kansas and extended into the more eastern states in the Midwest. Tallgrass prairie is made up primarily of grasses and forbs, with occasional shrubs and trees and is further characterized by relatively moist soils. Prairies depend on fire to maintain the ecosystem stability and diversity.

One benefit of fire in this community is the elimination of invasive plants, thereby helping to shape and maintain the prairie. In most managed prairies, prescribed fire is introduced on a two to three year cycle. Grassland fires can cover large areas in a short period of time.

Tall Prarie Grass Fire

Prairies depend on fire to maintain the ecosystem stability and diversity

The time of year during which these fires are ignited is of critical importance. Plant recovery following a prairie fire is fastest in the spring and fall when soil moisture is high and plants are not producing seeds. Growth of native species such as big bluestem, little bluestem and Indian grass increases significantly following a fire. Introduced species that initiate growth earlier in the spring and continue growing later in the fall than native species can be placed at a disadvantage by properly timed spring and fall fires, since the introduced species do not grow as quickly under these conditions.

If fire was excluded, the tallgrass prairie would vanish, and shrubs, trees and exotic grasses would dominate the ecosystem. Before European settlement of the grassland, naturally occurring fire helped to maintain the grasslands. Today many of the prairies that remain are managed by prescribed burning.