Restoring old-growth southern pine ecosystems: strategic lessons from long-term silvicultural research
The successful restoration of old-growth-like loblolly (Pinus taeda) and shortleaf (Pinus echinata) pine-dominated forests requires the integration of ecological information with long-term silvicultural research from places such as the Crossett Experimental Forest (CEF). Conventional management practices such as timber harvesting or competition control have supplied us with the tools for restoration efforts. For example, the CEF’s Good and Poor Farm Forestry Forties have been under uneven-aged silvicultural prescriptions for 70 years. Monitoring these demonstration areas has provided insights on pine regeneration, structural and compositional stability, endangered species management, and sustainability capable of guiding prescriptions for old-growth-like pine forests. Other studies on the CEF’s Reynolds Research Natural Area have provided lessons on the long-term impacts of fire suppression, woody debris and duff accumulation, hardwood competition, and pine regeneration failures. This experience leads us to believe the productivity and resilience of these forests can be adapted to create functionally sustainable old-growth-like stands by integrating silviculture and restoration.