Silvicultural Considerations in Managing Southern Pine Stands in the Context of Southern Pine BeetleThis article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
Roughly 30 percent of the 200 million acres of forest land in the South supports stands dominated by southern pines. These are among the most productive forests in the nation. Adapted to disturbance, southern pines are relatively easy to manage with even-aged methods such as clearcutting and planting, or the seed tree and shelterwood methods with natural regeneration. In addition, most species of the southern pines can be managed using the uneven-aged selection method, which maintains continuous canopy cover on the site. Because southern pines grow so rapidly across a wide variety of conditions, stands can quickly become overstocked to the point where competition results in reduced growth, decline in vigor, and mortality—including mortality from infestations of southern pine beetle (SPB). Thinning is an effective silvicultural practice designed to avoid the problems associated with overstocked stands, and can be used in immature sapling stands through mature stands of large trees. When a stand is properly thinned, the crowns obtain more sunlight, root systems get a larger share of soil moisture and nutrients, and trees maintain acceptable rates of growth and individual vigor. The best silvicultural defense against SPB is to manage forest stands so that individual trees are vigorous and stands are not overstocked. Active forest management is important, based on timely thinning treatments and other silvicultural practices appropriate for the local species and site conditions that optimize current stand developmental dynamics, manage species composition, and promote tree vigor and forest health.