Longleaf Pine Tree Environmental Preservation and Restoration
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Longleaf Pine Tree Environmental Preservation and Restoration

A description of the efforts of researchers to preserve and increase Longleaf Pine forests in the Southeastern United States and maintain the biodiversity of the North American ecosystem.
    At one time, Longleaf Pines covered a large portion of the Southeastern United States. Owing to population growth and the forestry industry, Longleaf Pine stands have been greatly decreased since the days of the colonial United States. Additionally, much of the range of the Longleaf not taken up by cities and towns has been replaced by the Loblolly Pine, which is used primarily for logging purposes. The Loblolly also does not boast the same amount of natural resistance to fire and the notorious Southern Pine Beetle as the Longleaf. Because they are planted exclusively with logging in mind, Loblollies usually occur in stands of a high density in order to produce the greatest financial yield per acre possible. Unfortunately, this also makes the trees increasingly susceptible to the pine beetles, because logging density trees have closer proximity than natural stands of trees, and logging stands have a higher amount of sickly and unhealthy trees. These conditions have resulted in a number of epidemics that have wiped out large amounts of Loblollies.

In order to preserve Southeastern pine forests and promote biodiversity, a number of researchers have begun reforesting terrain with Longleaf Pine seedlings. The pines provide nutrition to a number of animals in addition to a barrier against Southern Pine Beetles, which do not prefer to infest Longleaf Pines. One such program, the Berry College Longleaf Pine Project, is managed by Dr. Martin Cipollini, and seeks to use volunteer student labor to maintain, reforest, and increase the pine stand near Lavendar Mountain, which is one of the last remaining stands of Mountain Longleaf in the area of Northwest Georgia.

Longleaf Pine reforestation programs all seek to manage and increase the growth of the forests by recreating the natural conditions of forests as nearly as possible. The appearance of civilization changes the natural status quo, but researchers can analyze natural growth and approximate these natural conditions. The three primary conditions of nature important to forests are weather (precipitation and temperature), concentration of trees, and fire. Weather is beyond control, and that particular aspect is also a relative regional constant. Concentration of trees and fire can be controlled and recreated, however, and the programs have methods of approximating these conditions. One of these methods, seen above, is the initiation of controlled burns in the Berry College forests of Mt. Berry, Georgia.

The planting of the trees is labor intensive, and requires a massive, coordinated effort in order to recreate a natural forest. Volunteers must use implements to create holes and space the trees two to three paces apart in order to approximate natural forests. Some volunteers are shown above performing this process at Berry College. Seedlings are planted in what is referred to the grass stage (visible below). In this stage, they are vulnerable to native fauna, which do not prefer to eat pine, but may visually mistake the Longleaf grass stage as grass and accidentally pull them out. If all goes well, enough of the pines survive to progress beyond the grass stage and continue growing into a forest. Researches also seek to use controlled burns in order to promote the growth of the Longleafs. The pines have resistance to fire during the youngest and mature stages of their lives, and controlled burns are initiated dring this time to clear out choking growth and imitate natural conditions. The grass stage longleaf pine pictured is uniquely adapted to survive fire with a large number of protective needles and a thick, corklike bark that is not easily burnt. Pines will not look like the healthy one below without natural or artificial fires, because undergrowth will quickly stifle their source of light and kill them. A synopsis of the Berry College effort and source of good background information is available at http://www.berry.edu/academics/science/longleaf/video/ This link, the fire pictures, and student labor pictures are all courtesy of Dr. Cipollini and Berry College and are used by permission.

         

Longleaf Pines are important in order for the Southeastern ecosystem to survive and thrive. They are an important source of food for animals and are a strong variety which is able to maintain virile forests. They are a piece of American history, being one of the trees which colonists typically encountered when they first arrived on the continent. They are also another link in the chain of the North American ecosystem, and a tree which many researchers are putting a great deal of effort and expertise toward saving.

SOURCES

http://www.berry.edu/elm/facresearch/bio/longleaf.asp

http://www.sfrc.ufl.edu/4h/longleaf_pine/longpine.htm

http://www.na.fs.fed.us/pubs/silvics_manual/Volume_1/pinus/taeda.htm

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pinus_palustris_grass-stage.jpg

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pinus_palustris_forest.jpg

http://www.berry.edu/academics/science/longleaf/Kto5forest2.ppt

Pictures and video link courtesy of Dr. Martin Cipollini and Berry College; used by permission.

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