See Michelle Foss, Restoration Biologist at Fontenelle Forest in Omaha, discuss the role of fire and its importance for maintaining the health of Omaha’s urban forest.
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- [00:00:00.690]Historically, Eastern Nebraska's oak
- [00:00:02.910]woodland's experienced frequent fires that created
- [00:00:05.380]an open forest structure with a diverse
- [00:00:08.034]understory plant community.
- [00:00:10.410]However, following European settlement, fire was suppressed,
- [00:00:13.505]and as a result, increasing tree density shaded out
- [00:00:17.460]many plant species.
- [00:00:19.270]Currently, land managers and scientists are working to
- [00:00:22.140]return fire to these unique ecosystems.
- [00:00:27.670]Prior to European settlement, the Los Hills
- [00:00:30.238]or the bluffs along the Missouri River,
- [00:00:33.310]they would have been more open.
- [00:00:35.410]They would have had some oak trees and some hickories
- [00:00:39.320]and the occasional walnut up on the ridges
- [00:00:42.040]and along the south and western slopes.
- [00:00:44.880]Along the northern and eastern slopes, there would have been
- [00:00:47.810]your hackberries and ironwoods.
- [00:00:49.820]The more foresty areas.
- [00:00:52.510]And as you go down into the valleys and ravines,
- [00:00:55.220]you would have had more trees.
- [00:00:57.150]Sometimes on the ridges and the sunnier slopes,
- [00:01:00.130]you would have straight on prairie and there
- [00:01:01.920]wouldn't have been any trees.
- [00:01:03.776]Now, without a lot of disturbance, you see all the other
- [00:01:07.020]trees slowly coming up the hill and taking over from
- [00:01:10.930]the prairie and savanna grasses.
- [00:01:14.970]Historically, the Native Americans across the Great Plains
- [00:01:17.492]would set fires.
- [00:01:19.010]It would help clear out the thatch and all of
- [00:01:23.610]the shrubby, tree things, so that they'd have easier
- [00:01:26.995]hunting and it was easier to get through.
- [00:01:30.940]And over the centuries, the ecosystems adapted to that
- [00:01:35.300]specific fire disturbance as well as the grazing disturbance
- [00:01:38.890]of the larger animals such as the bison and the elk.
- [00:01:43.400]We have actually found on a couple of points,
- [00:01:45.820]big blue stemmed grass, which is a prairie grass,
- [00:01:49.600]out in the woodlands that would have been traditional
- [00:01:52.387]savanna areas, so that's really exciting.
- [00:01:55.580]We are seeing a lot of flowers come back
- [00:01:58.690]that we haven't seen.
- [00:02:00.220]Indian plantain was a big one that popped up
- [00:02:02.820]in one of our burn sites a couple of times after we burned.
- [00:02:07.400]We're just seeing a larger variety of plants and insects
- [00:02:11.210]that are coming up in our managed areas.
- [00:02:13.360]It's kind of exciting to see what's happening.
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