Longleaf pine forests and woodlands: old growth under fire!
The author discusses a once widespread forest type of the Southeast – longleaf pine dominated forests and woodlands. This system depends on fire – more or less frequent, and often of low intensity. Because human-mediated landscape fragmentation has drastically changed the behavior of fire on longleaf pine dominated landscapes, these forests and woodlands will never be self-sustaining. Additionally, virtually all of these forests have been disturbed (cutting, plowing, fire exclusion), or converted irreversibly to other uses. Consequently, preserving existing remnant old forest will only partially fulfill an objective to conserve the range of diversity in longleaf pine ecosystems. It is likely that protecting minimally to moderately disturbed second growth longleaf pine forests, in order to produce some facsimile of "old growth forests" in the future, will be an important part of the old growth management strategy for the East. The author describes natural longleaf forests, and provides an overview of the environmental factors and ecological processes important in creating and maintaining their diversity. Walker presents information about historical and current distribution and its status. Based on the ecology and status of the forests, the author offers suggestions for management to preserve the biological diversity associated with old growth longleaf pine systems.