Do fires help or hurt natural preservation?

I have been told that a natural part of the life cycle in native habitats is the occasional fire. Has the West Klosterman Preserve had fires, and please explain how fires help or hurt the natural balance for preservation properties.

Thank you for the great question about the Sand Pine Scrub fire cycle.

Fire is an important natural element to maintain upland habitats like Pine Flatwoods, Sandhills, and Scrub. Fires occur in nature primarily from summer lightning strikes. The fires keep the woody plants and trees from over shadowing the understory plants of grasses, wildflowers, and smaller shrubs like Florida Rosemary, Ceratiola ericiodes. In otherwords, fire ‘cleans’ the landscape and maintains the woody plants as shrubs, not canopy trees which allows a greater diversity of plants and wildlife.

Wildlife has adapted to move or take cover during a fire event and after the habitat quickly recovers from the burn, the wildlife benefit from the re-emergence of species that help them with a better diversity of food and cover sources.

The West Klosterman Preserve is an upland portion to the adjacent Mariner’s Point Management Area (Preserve). Historically, fires occurred fairly infrequently in this scrub, but fire is a part of the integrity and health of this habitat.

Because fire is suppressed in urban environments where natural areas like the West Klosterman Preserve are essential, these natural areas must be in public ownership so they can be managed to perpetuate their services to wildlife and the diversity of native plants.
With your help, we can keep the West Klosterman Preserve as a functioning upland habitat that is so necessary as a corridor for pollinators and all wildlife in heavily developed Pinellas County.

Listen to George Heinrich, wildlife specialist, speak on the gopher tortoise and how it provides shelter for other wildlife, especially during wildfires and other extreme weather conditions.

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