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Goal: Deliver Benefits to the Public Use more tools from the toolbox: simple and innovative tactics for restoration of fire-adapted southern yellow pine ecosystems across the South

Southern yellow pine stand
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 tool with broad potential for application southwide, especially on Federal lands. (Forest Service photo by James M. Guldin)

Introduction

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.

Summary

The area of planted stands of southern pines are estimated to exceed 50 million acres by 2060. Most will be managed primarily for timber and fiber production using rotation lengths of less than three decades. This 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, 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 include reproduction cutting or thinning, prescribed burning, and release treatments. Efforts are under way, especially on National Forest lands, to recover longleaf and shortleaf pine ecosystems.

Principal Investigator
James M. Guldin, Senior Research Silviculturist
RWU
4855 - Center for Integrated Forest Science
Strategic Program Area
Resource Management and Use
Fire and Fuels
Wildlife and Fish
Publication
Restoration of native fire-adapted southern pine-dominated forest ecosystems: diversifying the tools in the silvicultural toolbox
Research Partners
All of the national forests in the Southern Region of the USDA Forest Service
External Partners
Private lands, especially family forests, across the South