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Fire as a tool


From the charred earth has come new life in the Flint Hills.

Soils rejuvenated by controlled springtime burns have combined with May rainfall to turn fields around Kansas vibrant green. According to the National Weather Service, Manhattan measured 5.8 inches of rain in May, 1.15 inches more than normal.

Prescribed fires help to release nutrients back into the soil, encourage heat-activated plant species to open their shells, and keep invasive species at bay. Some of these photos were taken in the same east Manhattan field almost exactly two months apart, with others from an April 22 burn staffed by a volunteer crew at the Konza Prairie. A total contrast emerges from the jet-black hills as green quickly begins to repaint the landscape in the subsequent weeks.

At the latter location, researchers have been experimenting with land management practices at The Nature Conservancy-owned former-ranch operated by Kansas State for about 40 years. The 3,487-hectare area of native tallgrass prairie is split into smaller sections, each one with a plan to test variables and their effect on the health of native tallgrass, namely the period between controlled burns and amount of grazing from cattle and bison. Research has clearly shown burns to be beneficial to the prairie and the animals that graze it. Prescribed fire is commonly employed by private landowners who use their fields for agriculture.

Fire as a tool

Bison thriving in prairie

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