By: Christopher Aultman, Dylan Henry, Charlotte Leivo
Controlled Burn Management Plan
The following plan designed to research the potential effects controlled burns has on areas overgrow by common invasive ground covers, including Periwinkle and Goutweed. At the moment, there is little research done on how fire can be used to manage these two plants (Stone, 2009). During a controlled burn, the emerging foliage section of the plants will easily be burnt and destroyed. The question that needs to be researched is, can fire destroy the underground root systems of the plants, and at what temperature does the fire need to be to do so. Due to Periwinkle and Goutweed having an aggressive reproductive strategy of underground runners, even if the above ground portion is burnt, the plants can re-establish and recolonize the area. The intensity of the fire influences the species composition that re-establishes after the fire disturbs the area. As the intensity of the fire increases, the number of species decreases (Heydari, Faramarzi, Pothier, 2016). A study on Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustrisin) showed that high intensity fires that heat the ground to 50℃ and above, have a negative effect on the seeds and cells of the vegetation in the soil, (Gagnon, Passmore, Slocum, Myers, Harms, Platt, Paine, 2015). Fire is a natural disturbance on grassland ecosystems, recreating this disturbance through controlled burns is beneficial. These benefits including increasing nutrient availability, decreasing biomass, controlling insects and diseases, and fire is necessary for some specie’s seeds to germinate (MNRF 2016). The following paragraphs will cover the legal factors, the necessary steps to carry out the plan, and any challenges and the solutions.
Photo Credit To: Haunani Thunell
For this management plan, the Forest Fire Prevention Act is important for controlled burns. Sections 1, 2, 4, and 12 cover when fires can be started, restrictions and permissions when starting a fire, and exceptions for clearing land in a forest area. Small scale fires, small area of grass less than 1 ha, are covered under the Forest Fire Prevention Act Outdoor Fires Reg. 207/96 and are not considered prescribed burns; therefore not needing to be approved by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF 2016). However on a large scale, greater than 1 ha, a complexity application is needed to be filed out and submitted to the local Forest Fire and Emergency Services (AFFES) office within 6 months of the burn. After approval, a burn plan will need to be submitted 60 days before the planned burn date (MNRF 2016).
Carrying out the plan
The first step for this management plan is to determine the study areas. EDDMaps can be used to narrow down the area and then field observation can locate the key areas. The study area will then need to be measured to determine whether the burn will be considered a small outdoor fire or a prescribed burn (MNRF 2016). After that has been determined a data collection plan can be established and the necessary permits and applications can be acquired. Before the burn can be done, a burn plan must be created for the different fire intensities and a timeline must be created for observing if the populations of Periwinkle (Vinca minor) and Goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria) re-establish. A final report with the results of the burns can be made for future management plans.
A proper controlled burn has fireguards. Fireguards are the boundaries of the burn area, and prevent the spread of a fire under control. Fireguard can include waterways bluffs, bare soil, and mowed vegetation that is wet. Large woody vegetation should be placed away from the fireguards in the middle of the area, because they burn hotter, longer and create sparks. The day before the burn gather weather information, low winds makes the fire unpredictable and very high winds make controlling the fire more difficult. A mild constant wind around 8-24 km/hour in one direction is optimal. The local fire department should also be contacted the day before the fire to inform them about the burn (Porter, 2000).
Challenges and solutions
The main challenge for this plan is safety. Fires can be dangerous and spread very easily, which can threaten lives and cause damages to third parties. To combat these issues, being prepared with proper staff and equipment is necessary. All legal requirements can be found in Forest Fire Prevention Act Outdoor Fires Reg. 207/96 sections 1, 2, 4, and 12. A responsible person must be present at all times until the fire is extinguished, and fire extinguishers are necessary. Another challenge of this management plan is length and preparation time for burns that the MNRF consider to be prescribed burns. From the start of the approval process, there is a minimum time of 8 months before the burn date is scheduled (MNRF 2016). This time line cannot be avoided but having a detailed and organized plan set up ahead of time will cut back on any further issues from happening. Another challenge for controlled burns is proximity to homes and other buildings. The solution for this challenge is knowing the municipal bylaw for open air fires/controlled burns, of the area that you will be burning. For example, the City of Mississauga By-Law #49-03 Part II, 7. (1)(b) stats that the permit holder shall not set or maintain an open air fire in a distance less than 50 meters form a building, structure, property line, roadway etc. Individual municipal bylaws may vary and should be checked before the burn.
The use of fire as a management strategy for invasive ground cover, focusing on Periwinkle (Vinca minor) and Goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria), is a work in progress. The data collected in this plan will be beneficial to future projects and will be a foundation to other management plans. By following the Forest Fire Prevention Act, applying for permits, and creating a burn plan, fire can be a useful and affective management strategy when implemented on the right species; that is why research on Periwinkle and Goutweed is important.