Fire is an essential disturbance that maintains the species composition and habitat structure of many vegetation communities in Florida. Without frequent fire (every 2 to 3 years) the Kissimmee Prairie would change into pine flatwoods with oaks through a process known as succession. Rather than acting as a destructive force, fire plays an essential role in the ecological maintenance of prairie. See how the landscape recovers from fire Here.
To understand the role fire plays in ecological maintenance we must perform a thought experiment. Cast your gaze out onto the prairie in the picture below and consider any of the plants you see. As fire rolls across the prairie these plants will, of course, be consumed by the flames. Or will they? When you look at a plant you have to remember that more than half of the plant’s biomass is actually below ground, protected from fire.
Looking at this same picture of healthy prairie, imagine what it would look like if fire were excluded from the landscape. The prairie would undergo what we call a change in species composition. The plant species that comprise the prairie would change - more pines trees and hardwoods would move in.