Managing Mixed Stands: Reassessing a Forgotten Stand Type in the Southeastern United States
Forestry in the Southeastern United States has long focused on converting natural stands into pine plantations or managing exclusively for hardwoods. Little consideration has been given to managing stands containing pine and hardwood mixtures, as these stands were considered inferior in terms of productivity and/or quality. Recent declines in small-diameter softwood markets and logging workforce have, however, begun to stress the traditional pine production model in some locations, raising interest in management alternatives. Here, we provide biological, economic, and sociocultural rationale for pine-hardwood mixtures as an alternative strategy for landowners with multiple management objectives. To support this idea, an illustration compares a mixed-species plantation to pine and hardwood monocultures under a variety of simulated scenarios to demonstrate growth potential and economic and biological resilience. Moreover, to identify scenarios where managing pine-hardwood mixtures would be most appropriate, and to help conceptualize landowner interest in mixed stands, we present a guide combining biological, economic, and sociocultural factors that we anticipate influencing the adoption of mixed-stand management. The aim of this conceptual paper is not to suggest that mixed-species stand management should become the dominant management paradigm; rather, we seek to encourage researchers and land managers to consider it as part of the broader silvicultural toolbox.