New Book on Restoring Longleaf Pine Ecosystems

longleaf pine and fire
Longleaf pine forests once covered 90 million acres of the Southeast. Photo courtesy of the Jones Center.

A definitive book about longleaf pine ecosystem restoration is now available.

Experts from the USDA Forest Service, Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center, and many other organizations contributed to the book.

Ecological Restoration and Management of Longleaf Pine Forests integrates ecology, hydrology, wildlife, and silviculture. Its seventeen chapters synthesize decades of research on longleaf pine ecology and restoration in the southeastern coastal plain.

“Our objective was to integrate research conducted at the Jones Center with the current understanding of longleaf pine ecosystems, as found in the broader scientific literature,” says Center director Kier Klepzig.

The Jones Center at Ichauway is located in south Georgia. Its 29,000 acres represent a range of conditions – from relatively pristine stands to new restoration plantings. Mature second-growth longleaf pine dominates about 18,000 acres.

Longleaf pine was once abundant throughout the southeastern U.S. But for most of the 19th century, loggers harvested virgin forests as if they were inexhaustible. Longleaf pine proved difficult to re-establish and maintain due to a variety of factors including fire suppression.

The estimated 92 million acres of longleaf pine forests dwindled, reaching a low of 3 million acres in the 1990s. Today, there are about 4.3 million acres of longleaf pine or mixed pine and oak forests. Groups such as America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative want to restore 8 million additional acres over the next 15 years.

precribed fire and LLP
Prescribed fire is an important tool for longleaf pine restoration. Photo courtesy of the Jones Center.

“There’s been an unprecedented resurgence of interest in longleaf pine,” says SRS researcher David Wear. Wear contributed to a chapter on the social and economic drivers of forest landscape changes in the Southeast.

The book’s holistic focus is unique. In addition to social and economic issues, chapters address regeneration, wildlife, the herbaceous understory, and hydrology.

Fire history, fuel ecology, and fire behavior are discussed in multiple chapters.

“Fire ecology has emerged as a critical discipline,” says SRS researcher Louise Loudermilk. Loudermilk led a chapter on forest fuels and their influence on fire behavior. SRS researcher Joseph O’Brien also contributed to that chapter, as well as another chapter comparing longleaf pine forests with other fire-dependent forests.

Forest Service scientists have studied longleaf pine since the 1930s. SRS researchers led the way in longleaf pine silvics such as reseeding practices and growing seedlings in containers. SRS scientists are also looking toward the future and the multiple benefits that longleaf ecosystems can provide.

“Longleaf pine restoration has implications for water and carbon management,” says SRS scientist James Vose. “Better understanding of these implications could inform broad-scale restoration efforts.”

Vose and Wear contributed to a chapter on longleaf pine forests in the context of mitigating water scarcity and sustaining carbon sequestration.

longleaf pine ecosystem
Longleaf pine ecosystems are home to a diverse suite of animals and understory plants. Photo courtesy of the Jones Center.

The book addresses fundamental longleaf pine ecology, active restoration, monitoring and adaptive management, and future challenges and opportunities.

The book was published by CRC Press and edited by Jones Center experts Katherine Kirkman and Steve Jack. Jones Center researchers also contributed to a number of chapters.

Read the full text of the following chapters:

Purchase the book from the publisher. 

For more information, email Steve Jack at steve.jack@jonesctr.org.

Access the latest publications by SRS scientists.

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