National Park Service


Date of this Version



Leis, S. A., L. W. Morrison, J. L. Haack, M. S. Gaetani. 2011. Fire ecology monitoring protocol for the Heartland Inventory and Monitoring Network. Natural Resource Report NPS/HTLN/NRR—2011/294. National Park Service, Fort Collins, Colorado.


January 2011

U.S. Department of the Interior National Park Service Natural Resource Program Center Fort Collins, Colorado


Fire has played an important role in shaping the plant and animal communities of the Central Great Plains region. Lightning fires as well as those of anthropogenic origin were frequent during the period of historical interest for most parks. An era of fire suppression has led to changes in natural communities, however. Current prescribed fire programs in the region aim to restore or maintain ecosystems and reduce fuel loads in hopes of preventing catastrophic wildfire.

The fire ecology program for the Central Great Plains region, embedded within the Heartland Inventory and Monitoring Network (HTLN), is multifaceted. It serves as an integrating factor among the vital signs projects already in place within HTLN as well as integrating HTLN into the Midwest Region Fire programs. Field data collection that began in 2009 complements and enhances long-term data analysis previously established within HTLN. The current NPS-Fire strategic plan highlights the value of collaboration between Fire Ecology programs and Inventory and Monitoring networks.

Sampling methods used are a hybrid of those described in the HTLN vegetation monitoring protocol and the NPS Fire Monitoring Handbook. The fire ecology program has adapted the protocols described in the Fire Monitoring Handbook to synchronize with the existing sample site array established by HTLN. In this way, both short-term fire ecology data and long-term vegetation monitoring data are collected in a complementary fashion. The short-term fire ecology data enhances understanding of potential disturbance related trends.