Introduction to Prescribed Fire in Southern Ecosystems

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The history of fire in the forests and grasslands of the South is as varied as the different ecosystems that span this large region. At times, fires burned as often as once a year or more in Coastal Plain pine systems or as infrequently as every 50 years or more on north-facing or cove sites in the mountains. Lightning served as a major fire source in most ecosystems for millennia before Native Americans arrived some 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. At that time, most plants had developed adaptations to either survive a fire or to regenerate after one. Native Americans were the first people of North America to use what we now call “prescribed burning.”

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