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Fire in the Pines

Wildfire has shaped the Pine Barrens ecosystem for tens of thousands of years.

The ecological effects of our modern suppression of wildfire have not yet been well studied. However, the decline of species adapted to natural successional habitats is apparently attributable in part to fire suppression. For example,Wild Lupin was described in 1911 as “one of the most conspicuous” native wildflowers of south Jersey’s outer coastal plain, and as “frequent” in a 1983 publication, but today is listed as a “species of concern” by the state Natural Heritage Program due to its increasing rarity.

Scientists expect that wildfire suppression will change the composition of Pine Barrens forests by favoring oaks in their competition with pines for dominance of the forest.

Similarly, Virginia False Gromwell is thought to have been virtually lost and is now listed as endangered by the Natural Heritage Program. In addition, scientists expect that continued wildfire suppression, and the use of only very low-temperature, cold-season controlled fires, will over time change the composition of Pine Barrens forests by favoring oaks in their competition with pines for dominance of the forest. This potential fundamental alteration of the ecosystem will be gradual and will only be visible over a period of several decades or more.

Image of A pine cone releases its seeds following a fire in the Pine Barrens.[+ ZOOM] A pine cone releases its seeds following a fire in the Pine Barrens. © Kevin SparkmanImage of In 2007, a fire scorched 13,500 acres near Warren Grove, NJ. Dozens of homes were damaged when the fire spread to nearby communities. The fire was the result of a test flare fired from a jet during training at the Warren Grove Gunnery Range.[+ ZOOM] In 2007, a fire scorched 13,500 acres near Warren Grove, NJ. Dozens of homes were damaged when the fire spread to nearby communities. The fire was the result of a test flare fired from a jet during training at the Warren Grove Gunnery Range. © Kevin SparkmanImage of Satellite photo of smoke from Warren Grove fire in May 2007[+ ZOOM] Satellite photo of smoke from Warren Grove fire in May 2007 ©NASAImage of A pine cone exhibiting serotony after May 2007 Warren Grove fire.[+ ZOOM] A pine cone exhibiting serotony after May 2007 Warren Grove fire. ©PPA
 

Learn more about new Prescribed Burn Legislation and what it could mean for the Pinelands.

More Information:

"Saving the Pine Barrens with Fire" - Presentation by George Custer (Dec. 2011)

Proposed "NJ Prescribed Burning Act" (PDF)

Protecting Your Home From Wildfire (PDF)

The Firewise Communities program is designed to facilitate and provide information and resources to towns, municipalities, developments and communities that need to adopt long-term, proactive solutions to protect homes and natural resources from the risk of wildland fire.

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