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Buffalo National River Fire Regime

Fire is recognized as a significant force influencing the plant associations found within the Buffalo River drainage. Tallgrass prairies, now primarily found in Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri, extended into northwest Arkansas and burned frequently. Arkansas prairie remnants, including the Marshall, Baker, Huzza and King prairies, are located just a few miles north of the park boundary. Presettlement natural (lightning) and man-caused (Indian) fires would burn in a mosaic pattern guided only by climatic conditions, natural barriers (streams, bluffs) and available fuels. Plant communities associated with the bluffs and ridges reflect the past influences of fire. Prairie grasses and pines occupy these drier sites and have evolved with mechanisms to withstand fire. Fire-dependant (oak-pine, and cedar-glade) and fire-tolerant (oak-hickory) plant associations are found throughout the park. Without the disturbance of fire the pine, cedar and grasses would eventually be replaced by the more dominant oaks. Today many man-made barriers exist (roads, ditches and fields) preventing the natural movement of fire. To maintain the scenic diversity, so unique to the park, fire is needed to perpetuate these communities. Fire provides the most natural and economic means to accomplish these park objectives.

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