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Research Highlights

Individual Highlight

Use More Tools from the Toolbox: Simple and Innovative Tactics for Restoring Fire-adapted Southern Yellow Pine Ecosystems

Photo of A partially cut stand of longleaf pine on the Francis Marion NF in South Carolina. Stands of longleaf pine mixed with other species can be converted to longleaf dominance by harvesting the non-longleaf component. A partially cut stand of longleaf pine on the Francis Marion NF in South Carolina. Stands of longleaf pine mixed with other species can be converted to longleaf dominance by harvesting the non-longleaf component. Snapshot : Native, mature southern pine ecosystems are shrinking on the landscape, and the plants and animals that depend upon them are in trouble as well. A broader view of forest management, especially tactics associated with partial cutting, prescribed fire, and tree planting, will be key to restoring these fire-adapted southern yellow pine forests across the region.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Guldin, James M. 
Research Location : Southwide, especially within the natural range of longleaf pine and shortleaf pine
Research Station : Southern Research Station (SRS)
Year : 2019
Highlight ID : 1546

Summary

The area of planted stands of southern pines is estimated to exceed 50 million acres by 2060. Most are managed primarily for timber and fiber production using rotation lengths of less than three decades. This work has been a tremendous silvicultural success; however, weighing against that success is the associated decline of native fire-adapted ecosystems dominated by longleaf pine and shortleaf pine, as well as the plants and animals adapted to open woodland habitats. Three elements of silvicultural practice will be needed to recover these ecosystems. First, on sites where longleaf or shortleaf pines no longer exist but to which they are adapted, planting will be a primary tool to re-establish those species. Second, the reintroduction of fire in stands and landscapes through prescribed burning will be important but difficult to integrate into operational management. Third, in natural stands with a minor component of either longleaf pine or shortleaf pine, there are silvicultural opportunities to bring those species back to dominance. These opportunities include reproduction cutting or thinning, prescribed burning, and release treatments. Efforts are under way, especially on National Forest System lands, to recover longleaf and shortleaf pine ecosystems.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • USDA FS R8