Lake St. Clair Coastal Habitat
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Prescribed Fire in St. John's Marsh

Photo: John Schafer, MDNR

Historically, fire was either initiated by lightning or by Native Americans. Fire played a key role in maintaining the open structure of prairie and savanna and in maintaining a shifting mosaic of natural communities across the landscape. Fire dependent systems in the study area include lakeplain oak openings and prairie. Fire also occasionally spread into adjacent systems such as wetlands and mesic forests.

Fire can serve many functions within a natural community. Fire kills or stunts woody plants, converts dead plant material into nutrients, promotes seed contact with soil, warms the soil in early spring which promotes seed germination, opens resinous pine cones and stimulates herbaceous plant growth. Fire also plays a critical role in preventing declines in species richness in many community types by creating micro-niches for small species.

For more information, see: Coastal Habitat Plan, Section V (PDF)