Prescribed Fire in Florida's Ecosystem
Due to the sub-tropical climate, Florida has a year-round growing season and even during the “dry season” many of Florida’s plants are still growing. Florida also has unique geography as a peninsula surrounded by the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico; factors that help to make Florida the lightning capital of the United States. The combined factors of geography and sub-tropical climate make all of Florida’s plant communities “fire adapted.” Meaning that most of Florida’s plant species require periodic fire to promote growth and seed dispersal. Historically, lightning strikes would ignite wildfires that would range hundreds of thousands of acres across Florida landscapes.
As more people come to Florida, attracted by our warm climate, these large wildfires have been suppressed, which leads to accumulation of natural fuels in the ecosystem. This buildup of natural fuels creates dangerous potential for nearby people and property. Prescribed fire is a management tool that not only mimics natural process critical for ecosystem health but also benefits the surrounding community by lowering the potential for catastrophic wildfire caused by lightning strikes. With more than 30% of Charlotte County lands classified as conservation/preservation protected, prescribed fire is as important to the citizens of Charlotte County as it is the ecosystem health of our natural lands.