Lightning strike fires which occurred between 1940 and 1981 were studied in mixed-grass prairie grasslands and in pine-savanna lands in the Northern Great Plains region. A majority (73%) of ignitions occurred during July and August, while a lesser number was recorded in April, May, June, and September. The April-September period is also the average time of the freeze-free period and approximates the average distribution period for thunderstorm activity in this region. The area burned by each of 293 lightning fires (most of which were suppressed) ranged from 0.004-1158.3 ha (mean = 10.8 ha). The frequency of lightning fires in mixed-grass prairie grasslands averaged 6.0/yr per 10,000 km2 in eastern North Dakota, 22.4/yr per 10,000 km2 in southcentral North Dakota, 24.7/yr per 10,000 km2 in western North Dakota, and 91.7/yr per 10,000 km2 in pine-savanna lands in northwestern South Dakota and southeastern Montana. The ecological role of lightning-set fires is discussed relative to the development of resource research and management plans and to the interpretation of historical records of natural fire occurrence in the Northern Great Plains region.
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Lightning fires in North Dakota grasslands and in pine-savanna lands of South Dakota and Montana