assessment of sustainability of our forests

Southern Forest Resource Assessment

led by the USDA Forest Service's Southern Region and Southern Research Station in collaboration with the USEPA, US Fish & Wildlife, TVA, and state forestry agencies of the Southern United States

Broad Category:  Landscape/Terrestrial Ecosystems

Question Manager:  Wayne Owen

Question TERRA-2: What are the history, status and projected future of native plant communities in the South?

  1. Determine and describe the character and distribution of the (major) historic native plant communities in the southern U.S. Define "native plant communities"
  2. Ascertain the indigenous structure, composition and historical change of the major native plant communities of the region.
  3. Evaluate how changes in native forest structural attributes, plant species composition, and landscape distribution patterns have changed native plant community dynamics and plant species diversity.
  4. Measure changes in plant biodiversity in various ecological regions.
  5. Evaluate the effects of anthropogenic influences (fire regimes and exotic species) on native plant communities.
  6. Determine the probable future of plant communities in the South if current trends continue.
  7. Evaluate the contributions of cooperative conservation efforts on plant communities.
  8. Address the effects of exotic species on habitats.
  9. Evaluate the role that various forest types and successional stages (including monotypic stands) play in providing native plant habitats.


Methods of analysis

Literature Review.  This question will require an extensive review of existing formal and “gray” literature on the current conditions, history, and future of native plant species and their natural communities in the Southern Region.  This literature will be found in a range of locations, including traditional publications (both primary and secondary), in a range of informally published or unpublished reports held by many governmental (Forest Service, state DNRs) and nongovernmental agencies (TNC, universities).

Discussion with Experts:  We will involve recognized plant community experts across the south in the development of our report.  They may have roles in either the development of the report or reviewing the material that we compile.

Synthesis:  Our final report will be a synthesis of the information we collect.

Data Sources:

Published literature

Unpublished literature

World-wide Web resources


ABI, Natural Heritage Programs

Forest Service (NFS and SRS)

Other state (e.g., Fish and Game, DNRs) and federal agencies (e.g., FWS, NRCS)

In-progress research at regional universities

Existing regional assessments (e.g., OOHA, SAA, Open Areas Assessment)

Existing habitat classification systems (e.g., LTA’s, National Classification, GAP)


We will produce a report answering each of the identified sub-questions.  The report will be populated with figures and tabular information as appropriate and will include an extensive bibliography or consulted literature.

Collaborators and Sources:

Tom Foti, Arkansas Natural Heritage Program

Latimore Smith, Louisiand Natural Heritage Program

Joan Walker, Souther Research Station

Guy Anglin, National Forests in Florida

Dennis Hardin, Florida Division of Forestry

Mike Schafale, The North Carolina Natural Heritage Program

Alan Weakley, The Nature Conservancy

Others as needed

Links to other questions:  

Information on plant community and botanical resources play a role in all the major question areas, specifically: I (1, 2, 3, 4); II (1, 3, 4, 5); III (1, 2, 3, 6); IV (1, 2, and in the place that addresses nontimber forest products); V (2, 3, 5).

Unresolved Issues: 

Threatened, Endangered, and Sensitive plant species need to be fully integrated into the discussion.

Botanical issues are highly integrated into all of the other issue-areas and there needs to be a high degree of integration among groups to assure consistency and accuracy.

There are few formal analytical tools available for the evaluation of native plant communities in the style and at the scale here addressed; therefore the basis of our discussion will necessarily be a review and synthesis of existing literature and information.

Several helpful tools are currently being developed throughout the region that could help us address the issues within this question area.  However, these tools will not be completed within the time-frame of this analysis.  We should investigate the extent to which we can make use of partially developed tools.

Cited and Other Relevant Literature:

To be developed.



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 modified: 13-APR-2000