Silviculture that sustains: the nexus between silviculture, frequent prescribed fire, and conservation of biodiversity in longleaf pine forests of the southeastern United States
The longleaf pine (Pinus palustris Mill.) forest ecosystem of the US southeastern Coastal Plain, among the most biologically diverse ecosystems in North America, originally covered over 24 x 106 ha but now occupy less than 5% of their original extent. The key factor for sustaining their high levels of diversity is the frequent application of prescribed fire uninterrupted in time and space. Pinus fuels, critical to application of fire and regulated by canopy distribution, provided the nexus between silviculture and fire management in this system. Typical silvicultural approaches for this type were, in large part, developed to maximize the establishment and growth of regeneration as well as growth and yield of timber, with much less regard to how those practices might influence the ability to sustain prescribed burning regimes or the associated biodiversity. However, many landholdings in the region now include conservation of biodiversity as a primary objective with sustained timer yield as an important but secondary goal. This review synthesizes the literature related to controls of biodiversity for longleaf pine ecosystems, and silvicultural approaches are compared in their ability to sustain natural disturbance such as fire and how closely they mimic the variation, patterns, and processes of natural disturbance regimes while allowing for regeneration.