Fire On The Prairie
Fire can be incredibly destructive in nature. However, it is also an integral part of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem. Over thousands of years, this ecosystem adapted to drought and fire and became dependent on it.
Historically, some prairie fires started due to lightning, and others started because American Indians used fire for hunting bison and making travel easier. Burning prairies in the fall caused plants to grow earlier in the spring. This attracted grazing bison.
Frequent fires slow down the invasion of trees and shrubs from the edge of the prairie. This maintains the grasslands and treeless structure of the prairie. Fires also burn up old plant litter, release nutrients into the ground and expose soils that warm faster in the spring. Warm soils increase seed germination and growth of prairie grasses.
Prairie plants survive fires because 50 to 80 percent of the plant is underground. Plants can quickly re-grow using energy and nutrients stored in their undamaged roots.
American Indians and European settlers feared prairie wildfires In dry, windy weather, these fires spread
"When we tug at a single thing in nature, we find it attached to the rest of the world.” - John Muir
Prairies Still Need Fire
Fire is still an important tool in managing remnants of original tallgrass prairie and newly restored prairies. Wildfires of the past were often large and could happen at anytime. Today, trained professionals manage controlled burns that are smaller than most wildfires. These controlled burns are conducted during cooler temperatures when wind speeds are lower and the prairie is not too dry.
Despite the risks of fire, many animals and birds thrive in the tallgrass prairie. Behavioral adaptation, such as burrowing underground, keep many smaller animals and some birds safe from fires. Mature birds fly to safety and larger mammals frequently outrun fires. Today's smaller controlled burns create less risk to wildlife and humans.
Winds At Buffalo Ridge
A glacial land form of rolling hills called Buffalo Ridge rises above the surrounding terrain and stretches 60 miles across the southwest corner of Minnesota.
BuffaloRidge's high altitude helps make it the windiest spot in Minnesota Wind speeds on Buffalo Ridge average 16.1 miles per hour.
Modern wind turbines in southwestern Minnesota often stand more than 300 feet tall and convert wind energy to electricity. They generate power used throughout the region
Tallgrass prairie gets its name from some species of grass that reach more than six feet tall by late summer. Some call it an upside-down forest, because roots can reach more than 15 feet underground. This ecosystem boasts more than 900 recorded plant species.
Prairie plants massive root systems can stay alive for decades, and the prairie is always changing. In spring, the shorter plants bloom while the taller plants sprout. In summer, Carly season plants die back and tall grasses and flowers dominate the landscape. Non native plants with shallow roots cannot compete with a healthy prairie. An established tallgrass prairie with natural processes such as fire can effectively stop non-native plants from growing.
Some prairie roots extend more than 15 feet underground and provide many environmental benefits. They control erosion, filter water, resist growth of non-native plants and enrich the topsoil when they decompose. These dense root masses also allow the plants to resist the effects of drought.
Prairie ecosystem Tallgrass prairie is one of the most endangered and fragmented ecosystems in North America. It once stretched from Saskatchewan to Mexico and from east of the Mississippi River west to the Central Great Plains.
Before European settlement,
this ecosystem covered one-third
of Minnesota. Today, only one
percent of the state's original
tallgrass prairie remains.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Horticulture & Forestry • Native Americans.
Location. 43° 38.2′ N, 95° 58.867′ W. Marker is in Adrian, Minnesota, in Nobles County. Marker is on Interstate 90, on the right when traveling east. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Adrian MN 56110, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 2 other markers are within 17 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Military Highways (within shouting distance of this marker); First Reinforced Concrete Bridge (approx. 16.6 miles away in Iowa).
Credits. This page was last revised on December 12, 2020. It was originally submitted on December 6, 2020, by TeamOHE of Wauseon, Ohio. This page has been viewed 14 times since then and 4 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on December 6, 2020, by TeamOHE of Wauseon, Ohio. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.