On Tuesday April 18, 2017, City of Toronto Urban Forestry successfully carried out prescribed burns in High Park and Lambton Park. The maps identify the areas in each park that were burned.
Both of these parks have remnant black oak savannah populations and are being managed by Urban Forestry staff. Prescribed burns are a key management tool commonly used in the maintenance and enhancement of these habitat types, and are part of the long-term management plan to restore and protect Toronto’s rare black oak woodlands and savannahs.
Prescribed burning is heavily weather dependant, and spring 2017 proved to be a difficult spring for weather prediction. Frequent rain showers with limited time in between for the sites to dry created complicated conditions for prescribed burn planning. Weather was monitored daily onsite for approximately three weeks in an attempt to predict potential windows that would have optimal weather for burning. Low relative humidity readings, limited rain, sunshine, and warm temperatures are key components to a successful burn.
The warm weather and sunshine surrounding the April 2017 holiday weekend provided sufficient drying time for the fuels (dead grasses and dried leaf matter) at all sites so that the burn date could be confirmed for Tuesday, April 18. Conditions on the 18th were better than anticipated with plenty of sunshine and a low relative humidity.
The spring burns of 2017 achieved their intended effect. The blackened soil has been enriched with burned organic matter, and native seeds in the soil will emerge and grow back more vigorous than prior to burning.
This year was the 14th prescribed burn in High Park and the 5th in Lambton Park. These burns follow the tremendous success of the black oak woodlands and savannah restoration programs Urban Forestry began in 2000 in High Park, and 2001 in Lambton Park.
City staff will be monitoring these sites as the blackened soil gives way to young shoots. It is hoped that these spring burns will significantly set back some undesirable non-native plants that have moved into the sites, while also encouraging the fire-dependant savannah species that are present on site like Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), Wild Blue Lupine (Lupinus perennis) and Black Oak (Quercus velutina). If visiting these parks in early spring, please help to protect these sensitive new shoots and remain on trails.