First Prescribed Burn of 2016 at Sanibel Gardens

Burn June 3-4533

SCCF Field Technician Victor Young with Sea Turtle Coordinator/Biologist Kelly Sloan using the drip torch.

A prescribed burn was conducted on about 19 acres of wildlife habitat in the Sanibel Gardens Preserve (owned by SCCF and the City of Sanibel) on Friday, June 3. The burn was conducted by SCCF and the City of Sanibel.

Burn June 3-4260

Burn boss, Toby Clark (left) checks the fire line

Habitat preservation and human safety are the main reasons for performing controlled burns. Our habitat on the island is adapted for fire. When periodic fire is denied, the habitat begins to change, mostly to hardwood hammock.

This results in the progressive narrowing of the once open-canopy grasslands that historically covered Sanibel and were maintained by fires caused by lightning strikes. Without fire to keep the grasslands open, hardwoods will eventually take over. Many faunal species — from wading birds to invertebrates — depend on these open grassy wetlands for both habitat and prey.

When fire-adapted habitat is left unburned over many years, the fuel, or accumulating organic debris (leaves, sticks, dead grass, etc.), become an increasing risk for wildfire. These types of fires are usually started from lightning strikes or human carelessness (discarded cigarette butts, discarded matches, etc.) and are unpredictable. The reduction of these fuels through a scheduled controlled fire regime greatly helps to prevent these scenarios.

Prescribed burns on Sanibel are made possible with help from the Sanibel Prescribed Fire Task Force (City of Sanibel, Florida Forest Service, Sanibel Fire Control District, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and SCCF).

Cabbage palms are adapted to fire and can survive as long as their “bud” doesn’t burn. Detailed planning, vigilant patrolling, and the correct atmospheric conditions are needed. Prescribed fire is the most effective habitat management technique to keep shrinking ecosystems — such as open freshwater marshes, —from disappearing.