Restoring Shortleaf Pine in the Southern Appalachians

Recent workshop on use of prescribed fire

Shortleaf pine restoration site at Sandy Mush Game Land in western North Carolina. Photo by Steve Norman.
Shortleaf pine restoration site at Sandy Mush Game Land in western North Carolina. Photo by Steve Norman.

On July 29-30, the Consortium of Appalachian Fire Managers and Scientists (CAFMS) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) hosted a workshop in Asheville, North Carolina, to discuss threats, barriers, and successes in relation to the restoration of shortleaf pine in the southern Appalachians. Over 80 participants from national forests and parks, state agencies, and nongovernmental organizations from across the southern Appalachian region attended.

Directed by Helen Mohr, U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) forester, CAFMS supports knowledge exchange and interaction among fire managers and scientists on the use of prescribed fire across the entire Appalachian region. Mohr organized and facilitated the shortleaf pine workshop.

The workshop opened with an overview of the Shortleaf Pine Initiative (SPI), a collaboration started in 2013 to provide the tools and resources needed to restore shortleaf pine across a range that once stretched from eastern Texas and Oklahoma to the Eastern Seaboard from New Jersey to Florida. Over the last 30 years, this extensive shortleaf pine ecosystem has been reduced by half, with the biggest losses east of the Mississippi River. (Read about the documentation of this loss in a 2013 article by SRS research forester Chris Oswalt.)

Workshop presentations from managers on state and federal lands in North Carolina and from the TNC manager in Arkansas emphasized the importance of prescribed burning for the system, this last speaker citing research in the western range of shortleaf by SRS project leader Jim Guldin.

Afternoon discussion sessions were designed to establish priorities for a regional shortleaf pine working group. Participants discussed threats to shortleaf pine habitats, barriers to restoration, as well as a list of restoration actions now underway.

On July 30, participants took a field trip to a restored shortleaf ecosystem on the Sandy Mush Game Land managed by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, where a combination of prescribed burning and mechanical treatments have resulted in uneven-aged shortleaf pine stands with thriving understories supporting a wide range of birds and other wildlife.

For more information, email Helen Mohr at hmohr@fs.fed.us.

Read an article by SRS research forester Tom Waldrop on the fell-and-burn method, also referred to as the Abercrombie treatment, used to regenerate pine-hardwood mixtures referred to in several of the presentations.

CAFMS is supported by funding from the Joint Fire Science Program, with SRS research forester Tom Waldrop acting as principal investigator on the grant. Coming soon: a new website for CAFMS at www.appalachianfire.org .

Access the latest publications by SRS scientists.

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