Mapping fire history and quantifying burned area through 35 years of prescribed fire history at an Illinois tallgrass prairie restoration site using GIS.
Fire was important to pre-colonization prairies. In today's remnant and reconstructed prairies, managers frequently employ prescribed fire, a historical management practice that limits woody encroachment, suppresses non-native species and promotes nutrient cycling. However, few long-term prescribed fire spatial datasets are available for study. We used archived images of prescribed fire maps and hand-drawn fire records to generate a geospatial record of the prescribed fire history at Nachusa Grasslands, a combination remnant and restored preserve in northern Illinois. This record contains maps of the prescribed fire history of the preserve across the entirety of its 35-year history. We used the maps to calculate both the absolute area and percentage of the preserve burned every year. This dataset compiles a long history of prescribed fire on a nature preserve and, due to the existing robust research programme at the preserve, can support the study of patterns in management applications of prescribed fire and examine the impacts of prescribed fire in restoration projects.