Longleaf Pine Forest Restoration
When we speak of restoring historic buildings, antique furniture, or old cars, we envision a re-created version as close to the original as possible. What do we mean when we talk of restoring the longleaf pine ecosystem? Do we mean getting longleaf pine back on the land or do we mean restoring longleaf pine along with the rich plant and wildlife communities associated with fire maintained longleaf pine forests? At what point do we declare victory and move on to other sites and challenges? Perhaps we can only declare success when we have established the rudiments of a functioning longleaf system and put into place management plan which will lead to long-term viability of that system. Then, there are questions of scale and distribution across the landscape. It quickly becomes evident that restoration is a moving target and that we need to choose achievable goals and immediate targets and set new ones when those are reached. The ultimate goal of the many groups working to restore longleaf pine today is to make it a significant component in the Southern forest once more; contributing all of those functions and processes that longleaf forests do in a fire-driven system.
Restoration may mean different things to different people. However, there are some things that are generally agreed upon. The establishment of longleaf pine is the primary goal, although it may very well not be the first or most important. The introduction of periodic fire and recovery of groundcover and wildlife communities may be possible without longleaf for the short term. Eventually, however, the fire regime necessary to maintain the desired groundcover and wildlife communities can only be maintained in longleaf pine forests. Treating longleaf pine like loblolly pine will not achieve the desired results.
The following is an outline for some generic steps to restoration. Each specific section will link you to a new page that will go into more detail on that specific topic.
- Determine your desired future condition.
- Determine the starting point: Discussion.
- Agricultural fields and pastures
- "Off-site" upland hardwoods
- Mixed hardwood-pine or pine-hardwood forests
- Abandoned cutover forest land
- Pine stands without longleaf in the overstory and no recent fire history
- Pine stands without longleaf in the overstory and history of fire
- Mixed pine stands with at least 20 square feet of basal area of longleaf per acre in the ovestory and no recent fire history
- Mixed pine stands with at least 20 square feet of basal area of longleaf per acre in the overstory and history of fire
- Stands that are predominately longleaf pine and no recent fire history
- Stands that are predominately longleaf pine and history of fire
- Preparing the site for restoration: Discussion.
- Situation #2: Abandoned Agricultural Lands and Pastures
- Choosing high quality longleaf pine seedlings
- Choose the right seed source
- Determine the type of seedling that best suits your needs
- Visually grade the seedlings for quality when they arrive from the nursery
- Assure proper seedling care and storage prior to getting the trees in the ground
- Planting longleaf pine seedlings
- Releasing longleaf pine from competition
- Early stand managment